A “green” funeral home in Fremont County, Colorado, is under investigation after a “horrific discovery” of more than 115 decomposing corpses, the Fremont County Sheriff’s Department confirmed Friday.
Return to Nature Funeral Home in Penrose, west of Colorado Springs, is accused of improperly storing bodies in a one-story, 2,500-square-foot facility, the sheriff’s department said, adding that officers had been called there for a “suspicious incident.” that a regulatory agency suspension letter called a report of an “obnoxious odor” Tuesday.
A search warrant was executed Thursday by the Fremont County Coroner’s Office and the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies, which oversees funeral homes in the state.
“Without providing too many details to avoid further victimizing these families, the funeral home where the bodies were improperly stored was horrific,” Fremont County Sheriff Allen Cooper said at a news conference. He said no arrests had been made.
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The suspension letter sent to the owner of the funeral home, which specializes in green burials without embalming chemicals, claimed that 115 bodies were found decomposing inside, and the owner said he was trying to do taxidermy. The document does not specify the context of the taxidermy claim. Owner Jon Hallford also claimed to have had a “problem” at the property, without explaining what he meant, according to the document.
Hallford is also accused of trying to cover up the alleged mishandling of the corpses.
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Fremont County Coroner Randy Keller said the investigation could take months given the number of people who died and the need to identify them.
“I want to assure everyone,” Keller added, taking a long pause, “that loved ones at this facility will be treated with the utmost care and respect. Our hearts go out to everyone affected by this tragedy, and we will take every step possible to provide families with the answers they deserve.
Some identifications would require fingerprinting, medical or dental records and DNA, he said. He added that Fremont County declared a disaster in order to potentially make more public funds available for the effort.
The sheriff’s department asked family members who used the funeral home to contact them.
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Fox News Digital contacted the sheriff’s office, the Department of State Regulatory Agencies and the funeral home.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.