Lake County coroner turns in resignation letter
Shannon Kent faces felony charges and is still under investigation
Shannon Kent, Lake County’s elected coroner who is facing felony charges of perjury and tampering with a deceased human body, and the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation, submitted a resignation letter to the county last Friday.
At a Lake County Board of County Commissioners meeting Monday afternoon, Commissioner Kayla Marcella said Kent submitted his resignation effective as of Aug. 1, or when an incumbent is seated in the position.
“At this time, the (board of county commissioners) would like to formally recognize the resignation and invite anyone that feels they can fill that vacancy to submit a letter of interest,” Marcella said.
Kent stands charged with official misconduct, a petty offense, and perjury, a felony, in Lake County, and tampering with a deceased human body, a felony, in Summit County. He was elected Lake County coroner in 2014 and reelected in 2018.
A phone call to the number for Lake County Coroner’s Office was greeted with a recording saying, “The person you are trying to reach is not accepting calls at this time. Please try again later.”
Kent has continued to serve as Lake County’s elected coroner, though the county has reportedly had to make special arrangements with Chaffee County Coroner’s Office and St. Vincent Health EMS to help move and store decedents so that Kent can comply with bond orders issued by Summit County courts.
At Monday’s commissioners meeting, Commissioner Jeff Fiedler said Lake County will continue to have coverage for coroner duties. “So there is no concern about a gap in service here,” he said.
The official misconduct and perjury charges stem from Kent allegedly allowing his wife, Staci Kent, to act as deputy coroner without proper authorizations, and then allegedly making knowingly false statements to a grand jury about that arrangement. Prosecutors have also charged Staci Kent with perjury and forgery, both felonies.
Kent agreed to close his chain of funeral home businesses in December, signing a voluntary agreement with state regulators to not only close them, but never again work in the funeral home or cremation business in Colorado.
The agreement was reached after law enforcement searched one of Kent’s funeral homes in Leadville. Deputies allegedly found unsanitary and possibly unlawful conditions, including used body bags, medical gloves and surgical equipment with dried bodily fluids on them piled on the floor; a body bag containing a decedent that was not refrigerated and leaking fluids; numerous bags of unlabeled cremains; several bodies in refrigeration wrapped in sheets or blankets without identifying tags or paperwork; and a small unmarked casket containing a stillborn infant that Kent told police had been “abandoned.”
Both of the Kents were arrested and charged in February with tampering with a deceased human body and bail bond violations, both felonies, after authorities found a deceased person in a coffin at their former funeral home in Silverthorne. The body is believed to have been there for several months.
Civil suit settled, investigation ongoing
A civil lawsuit was filed against Kent Funeral Homes on behalf of a Leadville couple inJuly 2020. The lawsuit alleged that its facility in Gypsum provided the couple with co-mingled and unlabeled cremains for a stillborn infant, providing ashes far in excess of what would be expected for an infant, and containing bone fragments from a larger adult as well as surgical material, jewelry and other metals.
That lawsuit was settled April 21, according to Eagle County District Court records.
Additional details about the settlement were not available. “I can tell you there was a settlement, but not the amount or the terms,” said Remington Fang, the attorney for the Leadville couple. Attorneys for the Kents did not respond to phone calls seeking comment.
A group of people was working to force a recall election of Kent earlier this spring, but did not turn in enough signatures.
For now, Kent remains under a criminal investigation by the Lake County Sheriff’s Office. Sheriff Amy Reyes said that she plans to meet with prosecutors Tuesday to discuss that investigation, following the execution of another search warrant in February in Leadville.
Tom Lotshaw can be reached at email@example.com.