The Fremont County Sheriff’s Department confirmed that an “eco-friendly” funeral home is being investigated after the “horrible discovery” of over 115 corpses in decay.
The Return to Nature Funeral Home, located in Penrose west of Colorado Springs is accused of improperly storage bodies at its 2,500 square foot, one-story facility. According to the sheriff’s office, deputies responded to a “suspicious event” which was described by a letter of suspension from a regulatory body as a report about an “abhorrent odor,” on Tuesday.
The Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies and Fremont County Coroner’s Office, which supervises funeral homes throughout the state, executed a search warrant on Thursday.
In a press briefing, Fremont County Sheriff Allen Cooper stated that the funeral home in which the bodies had been improperly stored “was horrific”. Cooper said that no arrests had been made.
In the letter of suspension sent to the owner, who is a funeral home that specializes in green burials, without embalming agents, it was claimed that 115 bodies had been found inside the building, and the owner stated he tried to taxidermy at the facility. The document did not elaborate on the context in which the taxidermy claim was made. The document also stated that owner Jon Hallford claimed to have a “problem”, without explaining exactly what he meant.
Hallford has also been accused of attempting to hide the alleged mishandling of corpses.
The investigation, according to Fremont County Coroner Randy Keller, could take several months due to the large number of deceased and the difficulty in identifying them.
Keller continued, after a long pause: “I want everyone to know that the loved ones who are in this facility will receive the best care and respect.” We are all deeply affected by this tragedy and will do everything we can to provide answers to families.
He said that some identifications require fingerprints, medical or dental records, and DNA. He said that Fremont County declared a catastrophe to make possible more state funding for the efforts.
The sheriff’s department contacted family members of those who had used the funeral home.