Married Owners of Colo. Funeral Home Charged After Nearly 200 Decaying Bodies Were Recovered

Jon Hallford and Carie Hallford face charges of abuse of a corpse, theft, money laundering and forgery

<p>Jerilee Bennett/The Gazette via AP</p> Return to Nature Funeral Home

Jerilee Bennett/The Gazette via AP

Return to Nature Funeral Home

The married owners of a Colorado funeral home where nearly 200 decaying bodies were allegedly found improperly stored in early October have been arrested and charged.

In a press release on Wednesday, the 4th Judicial District Attorney’s Office announced that Jon Hallford and Carie Hallford were arrested in Wagoner, Okla., on felony charges of abuse of a corpse, theft, money laundering and forgery.

The pair own Return to Nature Funeral Home in the small town of Penrose, where an investigation was launched early October, when the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office responded to reports of a foul odor coming from the facility, authorities said.

“FSCO received a state warrant to search the premises, where they discovered improperly stored bodies,” the release alleges. According to the Associated Press and the Colorado Springs Gazette, authorities said they recovered at least 189 decaying bodies on Oct. 4.

Related: At Least 189 Decaying Bodies Recovered from Colorado Funeral Home, Say Police

When Jon was contacted about the bodies, he allegedly admitted there was a "problem" there, according to an Oct. 5 order by state officials, Colorado Public Radio reported. He also allegedly told authorities that he practiced taxidermy at the funeral home, according to the outlet.

“While the investigation for this incident continues, we also remain focused on the impacted families,” Fremont County Sheriff Allen Cooper said in an Oct. 17 press statement prior to the arrests. “We want to do all we can to provide the families the support they need as we shift to the next phase in this process.”

Cooper added that the number of bodies was expected to rise further as the investigation continues.

“We are conducting extensive coordination efforts as we focus on the identification of the decedents and provide notifications to ensure the families are given accurate information to prevent further victimization as they continue to grieve their loved ones,” Fremont County Coroner Randy Keller also said in the press statement issued on Oct. 17.

Information obtained by the Associated Press last month suggested families were given fake ashes. Those who spoke with the AP claimed they did not receive identification tags with their loved ones' remains, and some believe the ashes had a consistency similar to dry concrete, and solidified when mixed with water. Authorities have not commented on these claims.

Related: Discovery of Nearly 200 Decaying Bodies at Colorado Funeral Home Suggests Families Received Fake Ashes: Report

The company, which began in 2017, offered “green” and natural burial services without embalming fluids, the Associated Press reports.

As of Wednesday, the 4th Judicial District Attorney’s Office said it will review the investigation and file the appropriate charges in El Paso County District Court. Since the Hallfords were arrested in a different state, their first appearance in El Paso County District Court will be determined during the extradition process.

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It’s unclear if the Hallfords have entered pleas or retained an attorney to speak on their behalf. Previous calls made by PEOPLE to the funeral home went unanswered.

“If you or someone you know worked with the Return to Nature Funeral Home between September 2019 and September 2023, please complete the Seeking Victim Information Questionnaire,” the release states.

Fremont County also operates a telephone hotline for families who may have been impacted at (719)-276-7421.

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