Leadville’s Bailey-Kent Funeral Home and the Kent Funeral Home in Gypsum lost their licenses to operate after investigations into the businesses found violations of at least 11 state statutes meant to regulate funeral home and cremation businesses in Colorado.
The Division of Professions and Occupations (DPO), the arm of the Department of Regulatory Affairs (DORA) that oversees funeral homes and crematories, issued the suspensions on Oct. 13 after investigating claims made against the Leadville business that implicated the Kent’s crematory and funeral home in Gypsum.
At the end of last year, a local family arranged for the cremation of their infant through the Bailey-Kent Funeral Home, according to reports issued by DPO and the Lake County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO).
Once the services had been arranged, the family grew concerned after having a difficult time contacting the Kents. Eleven days passed between giving custody of their child’s remains to the funeral home and receiving the cremains.
According to the DPO suspension order, on Dec. 23, 2019, an agent of the Bailey-Kent Funeral Home delivered the unlabeled cremains to the family. The remains exceeded the normal size and weight of those typically generated during the cremation of an infant and were delivered without a death certificate or chain of custody paperwork.
The family, growing suspicious of their interactions with the Kents and the remains they received, filed a complaint with LCSO and DORA. The complaint prompted an investigation by both agencies.
On Oct. 2, a search of the combined business and residence at the Bailey-Kent Funeral Home was executed by LCSO and members of the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office.
While looking for documentation related to the family’s case, local law enforcement found conditions inside the business they deemed unsafe, including human remains outside of refrigeration, bodily fluids on surfaces, piles of used medical equipment and unlabeled cremains. The building was red-tagged and temporarily closed.
Lake County Public Health Agency (LCPHA) was called to the scene after law enforcement reported the conditions of the building. The agency found materials that constituted biowaste but not a biological hazard, Colleen Nielsen, director of LCPHA, wrote in a letter to DORA.
Three days later, on Oct. 5, Leadville/Lake County Fire Rescue (LLCFR) and LCPHA inspected the building and deemed the conditions adequately remedied.
The family’s complaint, as well as conditions reported at the Leadville and Gypsum funeral homes, led DPO to revoke the licenses of both facilities pending disciplinary review. According to suspension orders generated by DPO, both facilities were found to be in violation of multiple laws.
Investigations into both of the locations found the businesses in violation of state statutes that prohibit funeral homes and crematories from willfully engaging in dishonest, negligent, or fraudulent services.
The suspension orders also claim that each of the facilities improperly handled human remains, improperly documented the transfer of human remains and failed to keep needed records.
Separately, the Bailey-Kent Funeral Home has been accused of violating a law that requires funeral homes have the adequate staff and facilities to provide the services they offer. The same law requires mortuaries to provide written notice to consumers that detail any subcontractors who will routinely handle or care for remains.
Investigators also claim the Leadville business failed to promptly release the remains to the aforementioned family and did not provide them with a contract clearly stating that they could contact DORA with questions about the arrangements.
The order goes on to say DPO found grounds to believe that the funeral home failed to maintain sanitary facilities and take reasonable precautions against the spread of communicable diseases from human remains.
DPO reported additional violations at the Kent Funeral Home in Gypsum, where the cremation of the infant took place without the Leadville family’s knowledge. The suspension order said the business failed to maintain necessary records for the family and did not properly document cremains.
The order also references a 2018 incident, in which someone who transported remains for the Kents reported to DPO that the funeral home was storing unrefrigerated corpses in the garage of the building for over 24 hours.
Between May 2019 and January 2020, a witness shared photographs with local law enforcement that showed four bodies, three of which were not in body bags, stored in the Gypsum facility’s unrefrigerated garage. And in June of 2020, a DPO investigator observed over 20 unlabeled bags of animal and human cremains at the Gypsum location.
Though DPO wrote a letter of admonition to the Gypsum funeral home in March, the agency did not pursue additional disciplinary measures at the time.
A disciplinary review of the license suspensions will be completed by DPO at an undetermined time. Both the Bailey-Kent Funeral Home and the Kent Funeral Home are unable to provide funeral or cremation services until the disciplinary proceedings are complete.
The revocation applies solely to the two locations investigated and named in the reports, Lee Rasizer, public information officer with DPO, told the Herald. The Kents currently have ownership in six funeral homes throughout the region, including businesses in Lake, Eagle, Chaffee, Clear Creek, Park and Summit Counties.
Shannon and Staci Kent’s funeral home operations stand separate from Shannon Kent’s duties as Lake County Coroner. Though the Bailey-Kent Funeral Home serves as the facility at which the Lake County coroner’s duties are completed, it is not yet clear if the suspension of the business’ operational license will impact Kent’s coroner duties.
Lake County Clerk and Recorder Patty Berger told the Herald two residents have approached her wanting to initiate a recall of Shannon Kent as coroner, though neither have submitted a petition.