On October 13, 2023, in Penrose, Colorado, an unexpected discovery was made at the Return to Nature Funeral Home. In an ongoing investigation the number of decomposing bodies found reached 189, notably more than the initially projected figure of 115.
Local residents and families who had entrusted their loved ones to the funeral home’s care are now deeply concerned by the sudden increase in the number of bodies.
The inquiry into the funeral home’s practices was triggered when neighbors of the funeral home voiced concerns about a persistent and unusual odor near the facility. Subsequent investigations led to allegations that the bodies were not being stored properly. The remains were then shifted to the El Paso County Coroner’s Office for a thorough assessment.
The Return to Nature Funeral Home is known for promoting environmentally-friendly burial methods. It emphasizes “green” burials that eliminate the need for embalming. Their procedures involve the use of biodegradable caskets or shrouds, aiming to minimize the environmental impact. Additionally, they offer cremation services paired with the planting of a tree in a Colorado National Forest as a lasting memorial.
However, this eco-friendly approach doesn’t excuse the funeral home from adhering to state regulations. According to Colorado state law, bodies must be either buried within a 24-hour window or be properly refrigerated. The conditions at the funeral home were found to be inconsistent with these regulations, resulting in the decomposition of the bodies.
Jon Hallford, the proprietor of the funeral home, had earlier shared details of his taxidermy operations on the premises with regulators. With the investigation in motion, Hallford permitted an inspection on October 4, 2023, signaling his intent to be transparent.
Although no individuals have been taken into custody, employees of the funeral home have been encouraged to work closely with the Sheriff’s office. This joint effort aims to enhance the depth and scope of the investigation.
Families previously associated with the funeral home are understandably grappling with a mix of emotions, primarily concern and a need for answers.