A Colorado funeral home owner and his wife were arrested on Wednesday after 189 bodies’ were discovered improperly stored at the business.
The couple, Jon and Carrie Hallford, were taken into custody in Wagoner, Oklahoma, on suspicion of committing abuse of a corpse, theft, money laundering and forgery, Colorado 4th Judicial District Attorney Michael Allen announced.
Authorities found the bodies at Return to Nature Funeral Home in Penrose, Colorado, after responding to a report of an “abhorrent smell,” The Associated Pressreported last month.
Although the original estimated number of corpses was thought to be 115, officials later clarified that they had found at least 189 decaying bodies at the facility.
Family members told the outlet that they believed they had been handed fake ashes after being told that their relatives’ bodies had been cremated.
Colorado officials said in early October that Mr Hallford had allegedly tried to hide the improper storage of the bodies after saying he had a “problem” at the facility. He also claimed that he practiced taxidermy there.
Thank you to the federal, state and local partners who together to bring about this result.
— FBI Denver (@FBIDenver) November 8, 2023
Fremont County Coroner Randy Keller said last month that the identification process could take several months to complete.
“My mom’s last wish was for her remains to be scattered in a place she loved, not rotting away in a building,” Tanya Wilson told The AP.
Ms Wilson said that she doesn’t believe the ashes she was given belonged to her mother.
“Any peace that we had, thinking that we honoured her wishes, you know, was just completely ripped away from us,” she said.
Following the alarming discovery, a family filed a lawsuit against the funeral home, alleging the owners allowed their loved ones’ corpses to “rot” away and sent families fake ashes.
The lawsuit accuses the Hallfords of intentionally inflicting emotional distress, negligence, fraud and violating a number of Colorado laws.
“In death, these men and women deserved to be treated with respect and dignity. Instead, they were defiled,” Andrew Swan, an attorney representing the family, said in a statement.
Following the arrest, the FBI Denver office wrote on X: “Thank you to the federal, state and local partners who together to bring about this result.”