DENVER (AP) — A Colorado coroner is accused of improperly sending his wife to handle three death scenes — including one in March when she was delayed because the van she was driving was buried in snow with a dead battery, bald tires and two other bodies inside, according to an indictment announced Monday.
The indictment accuses Lake County Coroner Shannon Kent of using his wife as a deputy coroner, even though she didn't hold that title and wasn't authorized to respond to death scenes.
Shannon Kent is charged with second-degree official misconduct. He said he was waiting to consult with his attorney before commenting.
Kent's wife, Staci Kent, is not accused of committing a crime, District Attorney Bruce Brown said.
In the March incident, firefighters and law enforcement officers had to remove the two other bodies from the van, and Staci Kent was delayed in getting to the scene of the other death, the indictment said.
In May, Staci Kent arrived at a death scene without a body bag, which led to an argument between her and law enforcement officers, according to the indictment. Shannon Kent then argued with Sheriff Amy Reyes, threatening Reyes with arrest for questioning his wife's decision not to use a body bag, the indictment said.
Staci Kent could not act in the role of a deputy coroner because she had not taken an oath administered by a county clerk or a judge, as state law requires, prosecutors said.
Brown, the district attorney, said he didn't know whether Staci Kent had completed training required for coroners and deputy coroners.
Brown said none of the three cases was a homicide or involved a crime. Coroners in Colorado investigate a range of deaths, including people killed in traffic collisions, industrial accidents and suicides. They also identify the person who died, determine how they died and transport bodies from the scene.
Kent is based in Leadville, a historic mining town in the mountains 100 miles (160 kilometers) southwest of Denver. He was appointed to the job in 2012 and elected to four-year terms in 2014 and 2018.
He's the second elected official in Brown's district to be indicted this summer.
Eagle County Sheriff James van Beek was charged with official misconduct in August over expenditures from a reserve fund. Van Beek said Brown had misinterpreted the rules for spending the money and would fight the charge.
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This story has been corrected to say the coroner was accused of having his wife respond to death scenes, not investigate deaths.