A funeral home in Colorado, recognized for its dedication to eco-friendly burials, is facing legal troubles for the most horrific acts. The Colorado Bureau of Investigation has verified the recovery of at least 189 decomposing bodies from the facility, a number considerably higher than the initial reports released earlier this month.
“While the investigation for this incident continues, we also remain focused on the impacted families,” said Fremont County Sheriff Allen Cooper. “We want to do all we can to provide the families the support they need as we shift to the next phase in this process.”
Public records and interviews with individuals who had dealings with the owners of the Return to Nature Funeral Home revealed a concerning financial and operational history. In recent months, the owners had fallen behind on tax payments, faced eviction from one of their properties, and were sued for unpaid bills by a crematory that had severed ties with them almost a year ago.
The day after reports of the unpleasant odor surfaced, the director of the state’s Office of Funeral Home and Crematory Registration engaged in a phone conversation with the owner, Jon Hallford. During the conversation, Hallford attempted to conceal the improper storage of corpses in Penrose, acknowledged a “problem” at the site, and claimed to be practicing taxidermy there, as per an order from state officials dated October 5.
As reported by the CBI, “On October 13, 2023, all decedents were removed from the Return to Nature Funeral Home in Penrose. The effort was coordinated by the Fremont County Coroner’s Office with support from several entities.” “Teams removed at least 189 individuals and transported them to the El Paso County Coroner’s Office. The total number of decedents could change as the identification and investigative processes continue.”
Authorities confirmed that they are collaborating on the case with the Fremont County Coroners’ Office, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies, the Colorado Department of Public Health, and the FBI but did not reveal what the funeral home was doing with the human remains.
Fremont County Coroner Randy Keller said, Iit will be a “very lengthy process” because of the need to conduct forensic identification, like obtaining fingerprints and DNA.”
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