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Funeral home's ability to operate permanently revoked

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Megan Hess, owner/operator of Sunset Mesa Funeral Directors in Montrose, has agreed to permanently relinquish her registration to provide services as a funeral establishment and crematory, and has promised to never again apply for any type of registration from the state Office of Funeral Home and Crematory Registration.

Hess operated Sunset Mesa Funeral Directors from January 2010 until Feb. 12, 2018, when registration was suspended by the director of the Division of Professions and Occupations, Department of Regulatory Agencies, Office of Funeral Home and Crematory Registration. A stipulation and final agency order executed in early August finalized that action.

Suspension was based on the following allegations:

1) In February 2014, Hess took possession of Decedent JE for cremation. Cremains purpoting to be Decedent JE were returned to the family. The family had the cremains analyzed and the cremains were found to be concrete.

2) In March 2015, Decedent FC's family followed the same course of action and the cremains were found to be concrete.

3) In December 2015, Hess agreed to transport the body of Decedent HC to a cancer research facility to be used for scientific research, at the family's request. According to the stipulation signed by Hess, Decedent HC was cremated without transport to the cancer research center.

4) In September 2016, Hess embalmed Decedent RH without first obtaining permission from Decedent RH's family.

5) In May 2017, Hess took possession of Decedent GH for cremation. Respondent was initially unable to locate Decedent GH's cremains. Upon eventual receipt of the cremains labeled GH, the decedent's family had the cremains analyzed. The cremains were found to weigh less than is to be expected for Decedent GH's height and weight. The analyst located remains of a watch, rivets and pieces of a metal zipper within the cremains. When Sunset Mesa Funeral Directors took possession of the body, the decedent was wearing pajamas without zippers or rivets, and was not wearing a watch.

6) When the Office of Investigations for the Department of Regulatory Agencies conducted an on-site investigation in February 2016, investigators observed bags of dry concrete/cement at Sunset Mesa's registered location.

The stipulation outlines additional allegations related to record-keeping for the business.

According to the stipulation, Hess denied the allegations but acknowledged that if they were aired at a hearing, they would constitute a prima facie case of violation of the Mortuary Science Code contained in state statutes.

An FBI investigation of business operations is ongoing. "The FBI will be testing a select set of cremains (ashes) as determined by the investigation," it said. "The FBI Lab, or any other lab that may be used, likely cannot test for DNA to determine if cremains (ashes) are from a specific deceased individual (decedent). Testing will only determine whether cremains (ashes) are a foreign substance or from the cremation of a human."

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