(LEADVILLE, Colo.) — A former Lake County Coroner and funeral home owner was sentenced to 180 days in jail on Thursday, Feb. 2, for mishandling the cremation of a stillborn baby, according to the 5th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.
47-year-old Shannon Kent of Leadville was sentenced on each of two counts of Unlawful Acts Cremation (unclassified misdemeanors). He will serve both 180-day sentences concurrently as ordered by the court. Kent plead guilty to the two charges on Dec. 12, 2022.
The sentencing comes after a December 2019 incident when the parents of a stillborn baby contacted the Bailey-Kent Funeral Home in Leadville after their child’s death.
Kent owned the funeral home and was also the Lake County Coroner at the time, per the District Attorney’s Office. The Lake County Sheriff’s Office began an investigation after receiving complaints from the parents who suspected the cremains of their baby son were suspicious. The parents also claimed they had not received proper or timely legal paperwork such as a death certificate from Kent.
According to the DA, the cremains received by the parents were in excess of what a five-pound infant would be, and scientific results showed, “…the cremation remains contain a ‘minimum of 2 individuals, a perinatal infant, and a larger individual. In addition, small bits of nonskeletal material consistent with jewelry fasteners, and surgical material were found…’”
A jury found Kent guilty of 2nd Degree Official Misconduct – for which he was sentenced to six months of unsupervised probation in 2021.
“While today brought about the close of Shannon Kent’s criminal cases, we recognize that the parents of this tragedy are still living with this open wound,” stated Heidi McCollum, 5th Judicial District Attorney. “There are no words sufficient to capture the grief and anguish they have been put through from the loss of their son, and the complete lack of both respect and dignity they were shown by Shannon Kent.”
During sentencing, Judge Catherine Cheroutes said that probation for Kent was not appropriate, in light of his past history as Lake County Coroner. She stated he became ‘entitled and arrogant’ due to his positions, and noted that punishment was necessary at this time.
Kent was immediately remanded to the Lake County Sheriff’s Office to begin his 180 days sentence in jail.
Following a separate and unrelated investigation in June 2022, a Clear Creek County jury found Kent and his wife “not guilty” of charges related to their handling of the remains of a truck driver who died in a car accident in Park County in July 2020. After an investigation by the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA), Kent surrendered his license to operate a funeral home or conduct funeral services effective Dec. 1, 2020.