A journalist was able to buy a dead man’s spine for $300, so where are your remains really going when you die?
In the mostly unregulated industry of body brokering, thousands of bodies are being donated to companies under the deception that they’re going to be used to further science. However, many loved one’s remains are being used for something far more sinister.
When Megan Hess and Shirley Koch were arrested for mail fraud and transporting hazardous material, the residents of Montrose, Colorado were surprised. However, when they found out they’d been selling the bodies of their loved ones, that initial reaction turned to rage and shock.
Between 2010 and 2018, the mother and daughter team sold remains and body parts from their Sunset Mesa Funeral Home, to sell on the Black Market for money. Because of the income from their side business, they were able to keep their prices low, so they won most business in the area. According to Reuters, fees for ‘fresh’ bodies can range from $300 to $1,430 per body.
Instead of loved one’s ashes, mourners were given an urn full of cement, that wasn’t even filtered. According to Nastassja Olson, whose mother was cremated at Sunset Mesa, she discovered a concoction of strange objects in her mother’s urn, “I found a bunch of stuff in the ashes that just seemed like it shouldn’t really be there. A bunch of weird metal pieces — almost looked like metal tacks and screws.”
Olson isn’t the only one. Bobby Espinoza’s father, Jerry, was cremated at the funeral home, but his ashes didn’t go to his son. When the FBI raided the business in 2018, details came to light about his father. According to the class-action suit that was filed against Hess, 43 and Koch, 66, “Jerry Sr.’s body had been dismembered and sold for parts.” Hess and Koch “carved off his head and his legs from his body and severed his torso and pelvis. These parts were then sold piecemeal to three different body-buyer defendants.”
The mother and daughter were charged with six counts of mail fraud and three counts of illegal transportation of hazardous materials and could face up to 135 years in prison for their crimes. They are still awaiting trial.