By Rick Sallinger

MONTROSE, Colo. (CBS4)– The funeral home where the owner is under investigation for a side-business donating bodies for education and research has been issued a suspension that will keep it closed.

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The State of Colorado shut down Sunset Mesa after numerous complaints. Some even claimed instead of getting their loved one’s ashes they were given cement.

sunset mesa 1 Funeral Home Services Suspended After FBI Raid

(credit: CBS4)

The funeral home doubles as a donor services facility, meaning the funeral director would be the person actually dismembering bodies for donation for education and research.

Others in the funeral business call that highly unusual.

“During my career I’ve never seen a funeral home and a donation company in the same type of facility,” TJ Garcia, who works at Grand Valley Funeral Homes, said.

“As a funeral industry it’s just something that our funeral home doesn’t partake in. We should let professionals do,” said Kelly Crippin with Crippin Funeral Home.

sunset mesa 2 Funeral Home Services Suspended After FBI Raid

(credit: CBS4)

Federal authorities raided the funeral home in Montrose last week. It is part of a criminal investigation which is expected to take some time. It comes after Reuters reported a lengthy investigation into the sale of body parts called, “Cashing in on the Donated Dead.”

The Colorado Office of Funeral Home and Crematory registration has issued an order of summary suspension of registration for Sunset Mesa. The suspension only applies to the funeral home and crematory, not the donor services.

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Order of summary suspension. (credit: CBS)

The order claims in one case, “The decedent’s family had the cremains analyzed. The cremains were found to be concrete.”

It also states during the investigation, bags of dry cement/concrete were found at the business.

Another family told the state it was given, “remains of a watch, rivets and pieces of a metal zippers” with their loved ones ashes, but they said their loved one was not wearing any of those when the body was left with Sunset Mesa.

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(credit: CBS)

CBS4 made numerous calls to Megan Hess, the owner of Sunset Mesa, and her attorney, but did not hear back.

Greg Hugger, who is named in the order of summary suspension, said he sold it to Hess years ago and is disappointed in what has become of it.

The Colorado Funeral Directors Association said it urges to make any body donations through organizations affiliated with the American Association of Tissue Banks.

CBS4’s Rick Sallinger is a Peabody award winning reporter who has been with the station more than two decades doing hard news and investigative reporting. Follow him on Twitter @ricksallinger.


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