‘It wasn’t his ashes’: Suspicions about Colorado funeral home’s body parts business grew amid lax state regulations
June 11, 2018
When Jerry Espinoza died, after a brief and punishing battle with cancer, his children chose to divide his ashes.
One son, also named Jerry, enshrined his share in necklaces for family members. A daughter, Stephanie, placed hers in a small urn she kept in her home. And another son, Bobby, traveled with his portion and a group of friends and family high into the San Juan mountains because his father had wanted to see Lizard Head Pass one more time.
This was in 2014.
They didn't know then that the southwestern Colorado funeral home that performed the cremation, Sunset Mesa Funeral Directors, also housed a business that sold human body parts to research labs. They didn't know about the complaints — which would come to number nearly a dozen — that Colorado regulators were receiving against Sunset Mesa but would spend years investigating before taking action. They didn't know that Colorado's oversight of the funeral industry is among the most lax in the country.
When they released the dust to the mountain winds, they felt at peace. But they didn't know the heartache ahead.
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