State attorney general and Lake County sheriff are investigating Leadville, Gypsum funeral homes
Summary suspension closed both operations on Oct. 13
Investigations are underway by two Colorado law enforcement agencies related to the conditions uncovered at Kent-Bailey Funeral Home in Leadville and Kent Funeral Home in Gypsum.
In February of this year, the Lake County Sheriff’s Office began its investigation regarding conditions at the Leadville operation. The state agency that conducted an investigation — which resulted in summary suspensions at both locations — has referred the matter to the Office of the Colorado Attorney General. Lawrence Pacheco of the Colorado Attorney General’s Office confirmed the matter is under review and noted the office cannot comment on the case.
On Oct. 13, the Colorado Division of Professions and Occupations, Department of Regulatory Agencies, Office of Funeral Home and Crematory Registration issued a summary suspension of the two facilities after an investigation revealed disturbing conditions at the operations. Both facilities are owned by Shannon and Staci Kent. Shannon Kent also serves as Lake County coroner.
According to a statement from the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, the case remains under investigation. No criminal charges have been filed and no arrests have been made. Colorado law does allow for criminal prosecution in certain circumstances of mortuary code violations.
In addition to the suspensions issued this week, in March of this year the state issued a letter of admonishment to the Gypsum facility.
Grand jury indictment
Shannon Kent is also facing second-degree official misconduct charges resulting from a 5th Judicial District grand jury indictment from September 2019. That indictment reflects charges that Kent allowed his wife to report to death scenes as a deputy coroner, but she had not taken an oath and no official appointment had been filed with the Lake County Clerk, as legally required.
According to the indictment, on at least three occations, Staci Kent responded to law enforcement calls requesting a coroner at a death scene.
Following their December testimony before the grand jury, the Kents were additionally charged with perjury. According to Bruce Brown, the district attorney, the Kents filed a motion seeking to remove his office as the prosecutor in the case. Brown is fighting that motion and awaiting a ruling from the Colorado Supreme Court.
“This case has about 12 tentacles to it,” Brown said. “The investigations are separate and are not really related. One has to do with coroner duties and the other has to do with mortuary practices.”
According to the Kent Funeral Homes website, in addition to its Leadville and Gypsum sites, the company operates facilities in Buena Vista, Fairplay, Idaho Springs and Silverthorne.
In the aftermath of the state suspensions, Lee Rasizer, public information officer for the Colorado Division of Regulatory Agencies, said anyone who has information to provide regarding the two funeral home operations can access the official online complaint system or directly to send messages to email@example.com.
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