Over 100 decaying bodies found at Colorado funeral home, launching criminal investigation

The funeral home's owner said he was aware of a "problem" on his property

The crime scene at a Colorado funeral home
Officials said it will likely take months to identify all of the dead bodies
(Image credit: David Zalubowski/AP Photo)

More than 115 decaying bodies were discovered at a "green" funeral home in southern Colorado, officials said Friday. The gruesome finding has led to investigations at both the state and federal levels. 

The bodies were found at the Return to Nature Funeral Home in Penrose, Colorado, after law enforcement was dispatched to the site following complaints of a foul smell emanating from the property. Investigators searched the funeral home and "determined that human remains were improperly stored inside the building," according to a press release from the Fremont County Sheriff's Office. 

Investigators didn't provide specific details about what was found at the funeral home. However, officials described the scene as "horrific," and Fremont County coroner Randy Keller said in a press conference that it would be a "very lengthy process." Keller added that the bodies were so decomposed that they'll need to be identified via DNA, which could take months. 

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The owner of the funeral home, Jon Hallford, has since had his mortuary license suspended and is under investigation by the FBI and Colorado state authorities. The suspension notice from the Colorado Office of Funeral Home and Crematory Registration alleged that Hallford "attempted to conceal the improper storage of human remains" at the funeral home. The notice added that Hallford spoke to regulators and "acknowledged that he has a 'problem' at the property," and revealed that the building's registration as a funeral facility had expired last November. He additionally claimed that he "practiced taxidermy" at the site. No charges have been filed. 

The facility was part of a growing trend of environmentally friendly or "green" funeral homes. Its website describes this as "a return to the traditional way of burial," adding that it did not use embalming fluids or metal caskets. Bodies are buried in a "biodegradable casket, basket, shroud or even nothing at all," the website added. 

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