(CBS4) -- Lake County Coroner Shannon Kent and his wife Staci Kent stood before a judge in Summit County Court today. They are each being held on felony charges of Tampering with a Deceased Human Body as investigators carry out search warrants in an effort to gather more details about the couple's former funeral home businesses.
Bond was set for the Kents at $10,000 each. The judge also stipulated that Shannon Kent and any of his deputy coroners could no longer collect bodies as part of their duties with the Lake County Coroner's Office.
CBS4 reached out to the sheriff of Lake County, Amy Reyes, late Friday afternoon to inquire about the impact of the judge's decision on the county's operations. A response has not yet been received.
Officers from the Silverthorne Police Department arrested the couple Thursday night. In a press release, the department said a body was found at 561 Blue River Parkway in a funeral home facility previously operated by the Kents. The body was discovered by a new tenant, Colorado Funeral Homes. It was in a coffin. An online criminal records search of the Kents' cases indicate the date was Sunday.
"This is a sad and disturbing case involving our community and a difficult investigation for our officers" said Silverthorne PD Chief John Minor.
The Kents operated, wholly or in part, crematories or funeral homes in Leadville, Gypsum, Silverthorne, Buena Vista, and Idaho Springs . The one in Leadville operated out of the family's basement. Lake County authorities conducted an announced visit in October as part of an investigation into the created remains of a infant.
The discoveries there led to the permanent suspension of Shannon Kent's funeral home and mortuary license in Colorado.
Until Thursday's arrest, Shannon Kent had continued in his capacity as Lake County's Coroner, an position he held since his election in 2012.
In 2019, Shannon Kent was accused of official misconduct for allegedly directing his wife to work as a deputy coroner, a position for which she was not certified. Friday evening, a press release from the 5th Judicial District Attorney's Office stated Shannon Kent's Silverthorne arrest also included a charge of violating bail bond conditions pertaining to the earlier misconduct case. It also stated Staci Kent is currently certified to work as Shannon Kent's Deputy Coroner, but that Shannon Kent testified she had worked in an uncertified capacity for two years prior to the misconduct investigation.
Late Friday, the Park County Coroner's Office confirmed it removed the body from the Silverthorne facility on Tuesday. The body was identified as that of Victor Akubuo, 42, a southern California resident who died in a Park County tractor-trailer crash in late July of 2020. He was identified by fingerprints.
The Kent Funeral Home in Silverthorne had taken possession of the body on August 11th.
Park County Coroner' David Kintz Jr. stated that his office was in contact with Akubuo's family and other funeral home arrangements have been made.
The District Attorney for the 5th Judicial District, Heidi McCollum, who office oversees the cases in both Leadville and Silverthorne, told CBS4 that "multiple bodies" were discovered in the Leadville basement. Authorities are trying to connect the deceased with families.
"The first priority of my office and of law enforcement is to make sure the family of these decedents is notified and return of the remains is made to them," McCollum said. "A family member dying is the most traumatic thing in anyone's life. To be able to grieve is paramount. We want to make sure these individuals are treated with the utmost respect, and family are given the deference that they are absolutely due."
McCollum's office has until February 26th to formally file criminal charges against the Kents. The couple is not required to appear in court again until March 9th.
A small number of Colorado coroners operate private mortuaries while carrying out the duties of their publicly elected office, as allowed by state law.
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