GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - Those with the FBI investigation into Sunset Mesa Funeral Directors, a funeral home in Montrose accused of doubling as a body broker, cannot give us specific details because it is an active and ongoing investigation. However, many families have spoken out about their experiences with the funeral home, and now a fundraiser for those families has formed.
Jerry Espinoza's father passed away a few years ago, and he said they used Sunset Mesa Funeral Directors. Alexis Espinoza, Jerry's daughter, explained how it happened. "Lung cancer, and then he passed away and we brought him to the funeral home in Montrose. And then a few days later we got the cremains, and [years later] found out they weren't actually human remains," said Alexis.
Which is why Espinoza, along with his siblings and step-siblings, are raising money to buy two memorial benches made of granite. "There's over 800 families who have nowhere to grieve, and literally nowhere to go to say goodbyes, no bodies," said Barbara Blackmore, a co-organizer of the fundraiser.
They would like to place one bench in Montrose and one in Grand Junction. They have selected the Grand Junction Memorial Cemetery for one location. The two benches are twins, and those at Snyder Grand Valley Memorials are happy to help with the fundraiser. "Typically retail for about $5,000 and we are doing $1,500 a piece, so we have substantially knocked it down in cost just to help it to become achievable," said LaRee Rath, the president of Snyder Grand Valley Memorials. The fundraiser goal is $10,000, because Blackmore said they want to host a vigil when they obtain the benches. She said the vigil would have extra costs associated with it, including purchasing paper lanterns to be released in honor of those who have passed.
Two sisters, out of a family of 22 siblings, said these benches would be a nice place to grieve. KREX 5 News spoke to them after a support group meeting, and on the day they said the FBI informed them they did not have their father's remains. "My father's body was actually sold, was not cremated... the ashes that we have are not that of my father's," said Rebecca Erman, the sister who said she spoke with a member of the FBI who specialized in victim's services.
Erman said the benches would be must more than just a place to sit. "Symbolize what many of us have gone through together, not one single person alone," said Erman.
A cake baking fundraiser for the benches is happening on October 8, starting at 5 p.m., at the Eagles Lodge Hall in Grand Junction. For more information on this cake baking auction, you can call Blackmore at (970)433-8249.
Blackmore also said you can donate directly to Snyder Grand Valley Memorials, and all checks should be made out to Snyder.