NewsDenver7 | Investigates


Lake County coroner faces 14 new charges in connection with Leadville funeral home

Coroner submitted his resignation on April 30, effective 90 days out
Posted at 3:50 PM, May 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-12 20:48:17-04

DENVER – The Lake County coroner, who submitted his resignation on April 30 in the midst of a law enforcement investigation, faces 14 new counts in Lake County, including abuse of a corpse, according to charges filed Tuesday by the Lake County District Attorney.

Shannon Kent, the 45-year-old coroner, faces four felony counts of abuse of a corpse; one misdemeanor count of abuse of a corpse; two counts of unlawful acts related to cremation; one count of first-degree official misconduct; two counts of second-degree official misconduct; three counts of falsifying health information; and one count of unlawful acts related to a mortuary.

According to a complaint filed along with the charges by District Attorney Heidi McCollum, the alleged criminal violations happened between Dec. 10, 2019 and March 31 of this year.

The abuse of corpse charges allege that Kent treated the bodies of an infant whose name is redacted, an unknown man, another person whose name is redacted and an unknown infant “in a way that would outrage normal family sensibilities.”

The unlawful acts related to cremation counts allege that Kent either “unlawfully refused to properly and promptly release human remains” to the rightful owner’s custody and “unlawfully engaged in willfully dishonest conduct or committed negligence in the practice of cremation.”

The falsifying health information counts allege that Kent failed to file a certificate of death within five days for three people who died in 2019, March 2020, and February 2021, respectively.

And the unlawful act related to a mortuary count says Kent, at the Bailey-Kent Funeral Home, “unlawfully failed to maintain a sanitary preparation room” and “failed to employ universal biological hazard precautions.”

This is now the third open case in two counties that Kent faces with respect to either his position as coroner or the six funeral homes he operated along with his wife, Staci.

Shannon Kent was indicted on counts of second-degree official misconduct and first-degree perjury in 2019 in Lake County after he allegedly sent his wife to pick up a body without a body bag, with her acting as deputy coroner despite not having been sworn in, and then allegedly threatened the Lake County sheriff when she questioned why Staci Kent did not use a body bag. Shannon Kent pleaded not guilty to both counts on April 29.

He and his wife were also arrested in February on charges in Summit County. Shannon Kent’s charges in that case include attempted tampering with a deceased human body and abuse of a corpse, after investigators allegedly found a dead body in a coffin at the Bailey-Kent Funeral Home in Silverthorne that had been there for “a number of months,” officials said. Kent also faces a charge in that case of violating the conditions of his bond set in the 2019 Lake County case.

The new charges in Lake County come nearly two weeks after Denver7 Investigates showed body camera video of deputies uncovering multiple decaying bodies inside the basement of Kent’s Leadville funeral home and after Kent’s resignation, which becomes effective 90 days from April 30. A group of Lake County residents also initiated a recall process to try to remove Kent from office earlier this year before he submitted his resignation.

The Kents also turned over their funeral home licenses to the state and have agreed not to apply for another one in the state of Colorado, Denver7’s reporting found.

The video obtained by Denver7 Investigates came from the searches of the Leadville funeral home done by law enforcement in October and February, when four bodies were discovered badly decomposed inside. One officer is heard on the video calling the funeral home a “house of horrors.”

“I’ve never dealt with a case quite like this,” McCollum, the district attorney, said in an interview. She said that her reaction to the body camera videos taken inside the funeral home were that they were “concerning.”

Karen McGovern, the deputy director of legal affairs for the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies, led the investigation into the Kents and their practices. She says DORA could have moved quicker if they had inspection authority and said Kent’s role as an elected coroner made the case more challenging.

“This case has always been challenging because not only does Mr. Kent run the funeral homes in the area and the crematory, but he's also the elected coroner," she said. “I do think we can always do better, and we always strive to do better.”

Court records show Shannon Kent was issued a summons in the new case on Wednesday and has a first appearance in the case set for June 8.