Jury trial scheduled for funeral home worker allegedly involved with mixing cremated human remains
Summit Daily News
The wife of a former Lake County coroner has reentered not guilty pleas on misdemeanor charges stemming from the cremated remains of a stillborn baby that became mixed with other human remains.
Staci Kent, 47, is scheduled for a jury trial Aug. 14-15.
Kent faces charges of abuse of a corpse, a Class 2 misdemeanor; two counts of unlawful acts of cremation, a Class 1 misdemeanor; required care of bodies, an unclassified misdemeanor; and consumer protection, also an unclassified misdemeanor.
During a hearing, Thursday, April 27, Clear Creek County Judge Catherine Cheroutes noted that the defense has filed a motion to dismiss several of the charges as a matter of law and a motion to dismiss charges based on constitutional vagueness.
Kent had previously entered not guilty pleas but withdrew that plea in order to not be up against speedy trial rules, Deputy Public Defender Dorothea Reiff said at the hearing.
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Staci Kent’s husband, Shannon Kent, who formerly served as Lake County coroner and once ran a Silverthorne funeral home, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a six-month jail sentence earlier this year on charges related to the same incident.
In February 2020, a woman who had hired the Kent’s funeral home contacted law enforcement to report that she had received ashes in excess of what she would expect for a 5-pound baby, according to an affidavit in support of a search warrant filed in the case.
The cremated remains were delivered to the woman’s home with no death certificate, chain of custody, or evidence of whose remains they were, the court documents state, and the woman claims she faced communication issues and delays before receiving the remains. When she contacted the Kents, they reportedly denied the ashes were anyone else’s.
A scientific analysis later showed “the cremation remains contain a minimum of (two) individuals, a perinatal infant, and a larger individual” in addition to “bits of non-skeletal material consistent with jewelry fasteners, and surgical materials,” according to the 5th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.
The Kents have faced several court proceedings in recent years. A Clear Creek County jury last summer found the couple not guilty of charges including felony counts of abuse of a corpse and tampering with a deceased human body. That case had to do with the body of a Nigerian man that police said had become badly decomposed after being left for months at the Kents’ funeral home in Silverthorne.
Another case involving Shannon Kent concluded in 2021, when a jury found him guilty of second-degree official misconduct, a petty offense, but not guilty of perjury, a felony. That case had to do with Shannon Kent sending his wife to several death scenes in 2019 while he was Lake County coroner. He was sentenced to six months of probation in that instance.