Former Colorado coroner acquitted on felony charges related to abuse of a corpse

A Clear Creek County jury on Tuesday found the former Lake County coroner and his wife not guilty of tampering with a dead body and abusing the corpse of a California truck driver who died in a car crash two years ago.

Shannon and Staci Kent were facing felony charges after authorities found the remains of the 42-year-old truck driver, Victor Akubo, in a coffin at the Kent-Bailey Funeral Home in Silverthorne, which the Kents operated.

“While we hoped for a different outcome today, we respect the jury’s decision in this case,” said Joe Kirwan, an assistant district attorney for the 5th Judicial District, in a statement.

Shannon and Staci Kent could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

The six-day trial marked the third attempt to try the Kents on these charges, with the first two ending in mistrials.

Shannon Kent, the former coroner, still faces 14 charges — including several felonies — in a separate case regarding accusations that he abused corpses, tampered with human bodies, falsified health information and committed unlawful cremation acts at his former funeral home in Leadville. He pleaded not guilty on all counts.

That trial is set for August under the same judge in Georgetown.

Kent 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. One person told state regulators that they found evidence of adult cremated remains, along with metal, in the ashes of their stillborn child.

The state in December 2020 shut down several of his funeral homes across Colorado’s high country and Kent agreed to cease funeral home operations in the state.

Kent previously has been found guilty of second-degree official misconduct after sending his wife to several death scenes in 2019, even though she was not licensed to do so. He was sentenced to six months of unsupervised probation.

The former coroner was acquitted of a perjury charge during the same trial.

The discoveries in Kent’s funeral homes prompted state lawmakers this session to pass a bill granting greater authority for state regulators to inspect funeral homes and crematories.

Before HB22-1073, signed into law March 21, the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies could not conduct inspections without the consent of an owner.

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