Montrose funeral director sentenced to 20 years in prison, mother to 15 years

Stina Seig/CPR News
People stand outside the Federal Court House in Grand Junction after Megan Hess was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Updated Jan. 4, 2023 at 10:00 a.m.

The Montrose funeral home owner who pleaded guilty to a charge related to selling body parts was sentenced to 20 years in prison by a judge today. Megan Hess received the maximum sentence. Her mother, Shirley Koch, was sentenced to 15 years for her role.

Danielle McCarthy of Colorado Springs is a family member of one of the victims and was in the courtroom Tuesday. She says she wants closure after she learned the body of her husband, David Allen McCarthy Jr., was dismembered and sold without her knowledge after an FBI investigation.

“When I can finally inter him in Fort Logan National Cemetery, that’s all I ever wanted, for myself and for my sons and for him,” McCarthy said.

Hess, 48, and Koch, 69, were arrested in March 2020. Each was charged with six counts of mail fraud and three counts of illegal transportation of hazardous materials. They faced up to 20 years in federal prison for each count for mail fraud and five years per illegal transportation count. They also face a fine up to $250,000 per count.  

According to the federal indictment from the U.S. District Attorney’s Office in Colorado, Hess and Koch would not follow family wishes, and neither discussed nor obtained authorization for Donor Services to transfer descendants' body parts to third parties. 

Hess and Koch offered to cremate bodies and provide the remains to families for $1,000 or more. Many of those cremations didn’t occur.

They would instead sell remains of the deceased and deliver fake cremains to their loved ones. They would also ship bodies and body parts that tested positive for infectious diseases after certifying that the remains were disease free. The shipments happened through mail or commercial air flight — which is a violation of the U.S. Department of Transportation regulation on transporting hazardous materials.

The scheme was carried out from 2010 through 2018. 

Hess apologized in a federal court room full of victims and those affected in Grand Junction Tuesday.  

Joy Christian of Aspen came with her mother, Ann Holland. Joy's father and Ann's husband, Michael Holland, had his body dismembered without their consent. Joy said she felt "happy and drained" after the verdict. She also said Hess and Koch didn't show any real remorse.

“No, no. I think her mom tried," Christian said. "But I think the remorse that Megan (Hess) had was for herself and for her daughter, not for us."

“I did not feel any remorse from either one of them," she said. "I'm a Christian and I believe in forgiveness and I was willing to give that to them in the courthouse. But I won't forget, it's been a terrible, terrible trauma to our entire family."

Holland called "Mickey," her husband, "a real special guy." They had been married since she was 19 and he was 18.

She doesn't know what to do with the cremains they were given, since they don't belong to her husband.

“Maybe just throw them in the wilderness,” Holland said.

"All he asked of me was to make sure that I took care of my mother and that I made sure that his ashes were buried with hers," Christian said. "And now I can't do that because I don't know what I have."

Hess and Koch both pleaded guilty to mail fraud last July. After multiple continuances, the sentencing date was finally set for Tuesday. A restitution hearing is set for March.

Hess formerly ran the Sunset Mesa Funeral Directors in Montrose. Koch also worked at the business. A Reuters investigation piece found that Hess ran a side business, Donor Services, a body-broker operation, out of the same building.

This is a developing story and will be updated.