A small town in Colorado was recently shaken by a gruesome discovery at a local funeral home. The Return to Nature Funeral Home in Penrose had been the source of a foul odor for several days, prompting local authorities to investigate. What they found was shocking: 115 decomposing bodies stored improperly within the facility.
The investigation into the funeral home was slow to unfold, with details only gradually coming to light. The authorities, including investigators typically assigned to airline crashes, several coroners, and the FBI, discovered the bodies in various stages of decay. The man responsible for the facility, Jon Hallford, initially attempted to conceal the improper storage of the bodies, claiming he was conducting taxidermy on the premises.
Further investigation revealed that Hallford had been performing green burials, a process that forgoes the use of embalming chemicals or metal caskets. Hallford admitted to issues at the facility, but the Colorado Office of Funeral Home and Crematory Registration letter did not specifically mention the alleged taxidermy or improper storage of bodies. It did, however, note that the facility’s registration had expired in November 2022.
Despite the shocking discovery, no arrests have been made and no charges have been filed. Officials at the funeral home are cooperating with the ongoing investigation, according to Fremont County Sheriff Allen Cooper. The process of identifying the bodies, which were stored in a 2,500-square-foot facility resembling a single-story home, could take several months, according to Fremont County Coroner Randy Keller. This process will require fingerprints, dental records, medical records, and DNA tests.
The funeral home charged $1,895 for a “natural burial,” which excludes the typical trappings of a traditional burial. While Colorado law permits green burials, it stipulates that bodies not buried within a 24-hour period must be properly refrigerated.
The discovery has left some community members in distress. Mary Simons, 47, lost her husband to lung cancer in August and had hired Return to Nature Funeral Home for his cremation. However, she never received her husband’s ashes and now fears he may be among the bodies found at the facility.