LAKE COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) — Disciplinary proceedings are pending for the owner of several funeral homes following a surprise visit at his home operation earlier this month that documented a disheveled basement with piles of paperwork, mounds of used gloves and body bags, and the remains of bodies.
Shannon Kent, the Lake County Coroner, owns five funeral homes in Colorado. Business licenses for two of the funeral homes were suspended by the state on Oct. 13th.
“Disciplinary proceedings will begin promptly,” stated Lee Rasizer of the Division of Professions, a part of the Colorado Division of Regulatory Agencies. No date has been set.
Per the Lake County Sheriff’s Office incident report obtained by CBS4, Lake County authorities arrived Kent’s Leadville home with a search warrant on Oct. 2nd. They had received a complaint from a client of Bailey-Kent Funeral Home in February. A woman whose infant died in December of 2019 and was allegedly cremated by the Kent-Bailey Funeral Home told LCSO investigators she suspected something was amiss with the child’s cremated remains. She was also skeptical of the funeral home’s actions in addressing her concerns, according to the report.
The ashes were tested by experts in Denver and found to contain abnormalities. Bits of metal, possibly from jewelry, were found. But, according to the incident report, the results also suggested the ashes she received were a mix of an infant, another adult and perhaps an animal.
Investigators knocked on Kent’s door at 510 Harrison Avenue, Leadville’s main thoroughfare, at 10:06 a.m. Kent, his wife and two sons were removed by Lake County Sheriff’s Office deputies, the report states. Investigators entered the home, which is next door to a small cafe.
Lake County Sheriff Amy Reyes was among those entered the building. In her incident report, she described the scene in detail. She added handwritten notes next to photos that were taken.
Investigators struggled to keep their footing in the office section of the basement, Sheriff Reyes wrote. They maneuvered past stacks of paperwork that littered desks, poured from tilting cabinets, and overflowed from cardboard boxes on the floor.
They struggled, too, to keep their footing in the back of the basement, but not only because of paperwork.
In between piles of used body bags and gloves, around the examination table with open bottles of chemicals, through the shelves of medications and cremation containers, they stepped through pools of body fluids.
Sheriff Reyes stated in the report, “I lost my footing several times.”
She and her sergeant cut the initial foray short due to the smell of decay and concerns for their health.
“I was beginning to feel sick, weak, light-headed,” Sheriff Reyes wrote in the report. “I ended the search.”
The fire department and city officials were called and the building was “red tagged,” a move toward condemnation.
Coroners came from other counties to remove the bodies from the basement, and health department officials were notified.
A search was ultimately completed, but investigators never found records from 2019 with the name of the woman or her child, according to the report.
Shannon Kent also owns, in whole or part, funeral homes and crematoriums in Silverthorne, Buena Vista, Fairplay, and Idaho Springs.
He did not return a phone call from CBS4.
The Colorado Funeral Directors Association provided CBS4 with a statement:
On behalf of its members, the Colorado Funeral Directors Association (CFDA) extends its deepest condolences to the families impacted by allegations of improper handling of deceased persons by Kent Funeral Homes, both non-member firms.
CFDA members believe that funeral professionals have an ethical obligation to care for each deceased person with the highest respect and dignity, and to transport, prepare and shelter the remains in a professional, caring and conscientious manner. As a condition of membership, CFDA members must strictly adhere to a “Code of Ethics” which outlines this as an obligation to the decedent.
CFDA members welcome unannounced inspections from state or local regulatory authorities. Additionally, they invite client and prospective client families to inquire about their firm’s policies and procedures about the handling of deceased persons; families interested in seeing their facilities are encouraged to request a tour.
Kent still fulfills his role as the Lake County Coroner at this time.
“The performance of coroner duties by Shannon Kent is distinct from the investigation of the Kents’ business practices,” the Lake County Sheriff’s Office stated in a press release.
In a separate case, Kent, elected coroner in 2014 and re-elected in 2018, was indicted in March 2019 for using his wife as a deputy coroner despite a her lack of certification.
A cursory online search by CBS4 showed nine other counties in Colorado in which the coroner doubles as owner of a funeral home in his jurisdiction. Those counties: Alamosa, Clear Creek/Gilpin, Fremont, Kiowa, Logan, Moffat, Morgan, Pueblo, and Washington.