Colorado regulators can now inspect funeral homes and crematories without owners permission

Colorado regulators will now have greater authority to inspect funeral homes and crematories, closing long-standing loopholes that made the industry one of the least regulated in the nation.

HB22-1073, signed into law Monday by Gov. Jared Polis, allows the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies to inspect funeral homes and crematories if the agency receives a complaint about the business. Before this law, the department could not conduct an inspection without the consent of an owner.

The governor’s signature comes just days after a Summit County judge declared a mistrial in one of the horrifying cases that prompted lawmakers to draft the bill in the first place.

Shannon Kent, Leadville’s former coroner and owner of several high country funeral homes, was arrested last year after investigators found an unrefrigerated body, bags of unlabeled cremains and an abandoned stillborn infant at his funeral homes in Leadville and Gypsum.

He pleaded not guilty to multiple felony charges, including tampering with a dead body and abuse of a corpse. After three days of jury selection last week, a judge declared a mistrial — the second in three months — citing a lack of jurors who could serve impartially, the Summit Daily reported.

Lawmakers also cited the Sunset Mesa Funeral Directors’ case as the impetus for the legislation. The Montrose funeral home’s former directors, Megan Hess and Shirley Koch, allegedly gave hundreds of families random ashes or cremated remains while discretely selling the bodies, or body parts, around the world.

The two — who pleaded not guilty to all charges — are set to stand trial in July in federal court.

“The horrendous incidents in Gypsum, Leadville, Montrose and elsewhere made this necessary,” Rep. Dylan Roberts, an Avon Democrat, said in a statement. “This law will make it easier for state agencies to identify negligence in funeral homes and crematories so no more families in Colorado will have to endure the heartbreak caused by the Kent Funeral Homes and others in our state.”

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