After Grim Find, Colorado Funeral Home Owners Arrested

Authorities say 189 bodies were found at the Return to Nature facility
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 8, 2023 12:45 PM CST
Colorado Funeral Home Owners Arrested in Oklahoma
A hearse and debris can be seen at the rear of the Return to Nature Funeral Home in Penrose, Colo., Oct. 5, 2023.   (Jerilee Bennett/The Gazette via AP, File)

The owners of a Colorado funeral home were arrested in Oklahoma Wednesday, roughly a month after authorities said the decaying remains of more than 100 people were found at their facility. Return to Nature Funeral Home owners Jon and Carie Hallford were arrested in Wagoner on charges of abusing a corpse, theft, money laundering, and forgery, reports NPR. Their Penrose facility made news in early October when a search of the business following a report of an "abhorrent smell" turned up what Fremont County Sheriff Allen Cooper described as a "horrific" scene.

Return to Nature describes itself as offering green and natural burial services, but state code requires that any body not buried within 24 hours or embalmed be properly refrigerated. The El Paso County Coroner's Office on Tuesday said the remains belonged to at least 189 individuals. Authorities say the Fremont County Coroner's Office will now begin the process of notifying the relatives of those individuals, reports KOAA.

The AP reports relatives of some people who were to be cremated in a process facilitated by Return to Nature now fear that cremation never happened. They say their loved one's death certificates list the cremation as taking place at one of two crematories, but both crematories told the AP they weren't providing that service to Return to Nature at the time of the dates given on the certificates. (More funeral home stories.)

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