A former Colorado funeral home owner has been sentenced to twenty years in federal prison for fraud and committing absolutely unspeakable crimes involving corpses, that included dismembering and selling body parts of over 560 people. The owner Megan Hess, 46, pleaded guilty to fraud in July. She owned and operated the funeral parlor and body parts entity, Donor Services, from the same building in Montrose, Colorado. In retrospect, families using her services probably should have been suspicious of both services coming from the same people and building.
While it isn’t entirely uncommon for families to donate body parts from deceased loved ones, the families that only paid for cremation or burial services were shocked to find out the extent of the crimes that were being committed by Hess and her ghoulish accomplices.
Her 69-year-old mother, Shirley Koch, also pleaded guilty to fraud and was sentenced to 15 years. Koch’s central role was chopping up the bodies, court records show.
“Hess and Koch used their funeral home at times to essentially steal bodies and body parts using fraudulent and forged donor forms,” prosecutor Tim Neff said in a court filing. “Hess and Koch’s conduct caused immense emotional pain for the families and next of kin.”
Former Colorado funeral home owner sentenced to 20 years for selling body parts https://t.co/EwTq8YEhcL
— Rob Mattox (@RobMattox2) January 4, 2023
The unspeakable nature of these crimes goes beyond what most people can imagine. Also, the emotion pain experienced by families that had deceased relatives basically chopped up and auctioned off can’t adequately be eased by any amount of prison time. The sale of body parts is in fact legal, though mostly unregulated in the United States. Many medical training facilities and school purchase body parts for research and study. In a country where government overreach is routine, the fact this industry is almost unregulated is shocking, and this case shines a light on the need for more oversight, at least where the sale of body parts is concerned.
In their filing, prosecutors stressed the “macabre nature” of Hess’ scheme and described it as one of the most significant body parts cases in recent U.S. history.
While Koch, the mother admitted her role in the scheme and at least feigned remorse, Hess used the age-old excuse of a bad childhood and mental health issues to excuse the horrific nature of the crimes. The judge was having none of it.
“It’s concerning to the court that defendant Hess refuses to assume any responsibility for her conduct.”
The judge ordered that Hess and Koch be sent to prison immediately.
Hess’ lawyer said she has been unfairly vilified as a “witch,” a “monster” and a “ghoul,” when instead she is a “broken human being” whose conduct can be attributed to a traumatic brain injury at age 18. In court on Tuesday, Hess declined to speak to the judge.
No excuses in this case. You can’t find a single reasonable excuse for dismembering and parting out human beings for profit. No brain injury can be held responsible for selling shoulders, knees and feet for profit, as one victim had done with her mother.
It is illegal in the United States to sell organs such as hearts, kidneys and tendons for transplant; they must be donated. But selling body parts such as heads, arms and spines – which is what Hess did – for use in research or education is not regulated by federal law.
We can’t even blame Chinese organ thieves or any of the other urban legends on this. Who we can blame are two of the most ghoulish people you can imaging and their lust for easy profit. Thankfully their scheme is over, and they are in prison where they belong.
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