Mar 11, 2024

189 Human Remains Found Improperly Stored in a Colorado Funeral Home

189 Human Remains Found Improperly Stored in a Colorado Funeral Home - Corpse Abuse



According to a recent investigation conducted by the Associated Press, some evidence appears to suggest that Return to Nature may have fabricated cremation records and given families fake ashes. Four families who allegedly received their loved ones' "ashes" from Return to Nature have described the ashes to appear like dried concrete; some mixed the ashes with water and claimed that the ashes solidified.


Multiple families who have used the funeral home services also claim they received an identification tag or certificate, which experts say are usually given to ensure cremations are authentic. One family brought their mother's ashes to another funeral home after they began to suspect the ashes may not be of their mother. The Funeral Home director described the ashes as "unusually fine and dark." 


Faith Haug, a chair for the mortuary science program at Colorado's Arapahoe Community College, says real ashes would not be expected to transform into a solid object and would stay brittle. The investigation also uncovered that the crematories used by Return to Nature claimed, when comparing the dates found on the certificates to their own records, that they did not perform cremations for the funeral home on the recorded dates. 


Currently, this claim and the funeral home are still under investigation, and local authorities hope to provide answers soon. Further investigation by local authorities into the Colorado funeral home Return to Nature has raised the number of human remains discovered to 189. Victims or those who suspect their family members were affected by the incident are encouraged to speak to an attorney. 




On Friday, October 6th, 2023, news broke that an investigation into a funeral home located in Colorado found 189* bodies were improperly stored. The remains were discovered in the Return to Nature Funeral Home in Penrose, roughly 30 miles south of Colorado Springs. According to the Fremont County sheriff, the investigation sparked after they received a call earlier in the week in reference to what officials described as a “suspicious incident.” The following day, Fremont County Sheriff’s Office investigators returned with a search warrant and found the remains.

Upon finding the “improperly stored” bodies, the area was labeled as a “hazardous scene,” Fremont County Sheriff Allen Cooper described the scene as “horrific.” According to Denver-based FBI Special Agent in Charge Mark Michalek, the FBI brought in teams of specialized personnel equipped to handle “scenes of national magnitude,” such as major airline disasters. The bodies were held inside a 2,500-square-foot (230-square-meter) building with the appearance and dimensions of a standard one-story home. 

According to a  state document, the alleged funeral home owner, Jon Hallford, attempted to conceal the improper storage of corpses. According to the state suspension letter, Hallford claimed he was performing taxidermy at the facility. Hallford acknowledged that he had a “problem” at the property; however, the document did not elaborate on the taxidermy and alleged improper storage of remains. The letter did mention the facility’s registration had expired in November. 

As stated on the funeral home website, they performed burials without embalming chemicals or metal caskets, using biodegradable caskets, shrouds, or “nothing at all.” Return to Nature Funeral Home charged $1,895 for a “natural burial,” not counting a casket or cemetery space, and until this past July, the home offered cremations. Under Colorado law, green burials are legal, but state code requires that any corpse not buried within 24 hours must be properly refrigerated. 

Since the investigation began, there have been no arrests made, and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and the FBI are assisting the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office with the investigation. According to FBI Public Affairs Specialist Vikki Migoya, it is currently unclear if a crime has been committed. Investigators on the case have made contact with the funeral home owners, and they are cooperating so far. 

Local officials are working to identify the bodies and notify those affected families. According to Fremont County Coroner Randy Keller, identifying the bodies could take several months, as they would need to collect fingerprints and find medical or dental records in order to perform DNA testing. Until then, Gov. Jared Polis issued a local disaster emergency, which makes state resources available, and a family crisis center and phone line have also been established.

Family members who have used the funeral home have been asked to contact investigators on the case to learn more information. If you have employed the services of Return to Nature Funeral Home and suspect your loved one's corpse was one of the affected or believe your loved one’s corpse may have been mistreated, do not hesitate to contact a Morgan & Morgan attorney today.