Sunset Mesa customers pick up cremains: Judy's story

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO/KJCT)-- Dozens of people went to pick up their loved one's ashes at Colorado Mesa University Friday afternoon.

The university has been testing ashes from Sunset Mesa Funeral Directors since early summer. Trying to give families and friends some sort of closure.

One of those families was Judy Cressler, who lost her father back in December of 2014. He was a uranium worker and developed lung cancer. She says when he died, he wanted to be donated to cancer research.

"He thought his body could help, you know, someday find a cure to cancer,” said Judy Cressler, Sunset Mesa Customer.

Judy says they decided to use Sunset Mesa after a recommendation from hospice care.

Judy says when her step-mom was given the death certificate, it was all wrong. It did not mention that he graduated from high school or that he was in the military.

“She said she wanted them corrected and Megan Hess tried to make her pay twice for Megan’s own errors,” said Cressler.

After talking with a lawyer, Judy says they managed to only pay $20 for the new certificate.

"Once you pay me for these death certificates you can have Harold’s ashes, and my step-mother was like what do you mean Harold’s ashes? He was taken away 45 days ago to a cancer research facility. 'Oh no,' she said, 'I kept Harold here with me the whole time. I have kept very good care of him, I did my own research on him and I’ve cremated him,”' said Cressler, referring to Hess.

Judy decided to file a complaint in April 2016 to the state department of regulatory agencies, or DORA.

"They did not forward my complaint to the Attorney General until after the FBI raid,” said Cressler.

She was advised to take her ashes to Colorado Mesa University to be tested by their forensic students. In total, they have tested around 128 different cremains related to Sunset Mesa.

"They were consistent with cremains with bone ash and there was a lot of really strange metallic objects,” said Cressler.

The CMU results tell her that they found the back of a women's earring, and a part of a swiss army knife that didn't belong to him.

Another piece of the puzzle, she says the FBI told her where exactly her father's body went.

"We know now from the FBI that Megan Hess sold his entire body to a plastination company in Saudi Arabia and he never went near a cancer research facility… so these are other people other people’s cremains,” said Cressler.

Leaving Judy with her own interpretation of what exactly happened.

"Hess admitted to DORA that she had two five gallon buckets of unwanted ash readily available to her and it’s obvious to me that she was taking scoops out of those buckets and giving everyone a scoop,” said Cressler.

She says she will keep the ashes safe until they figure out what to do with them.

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