At least 189 decomposed bodies were found at the Return to Nature Funeral Home in Penrose, the Fremont County, Colorado, Sheriff’s Office said Tuesday. The company offered the families of the deceased “green burials”.
The discovery of an “improperly stored body” at the Return to Nature funeral home in Penrose occurred in early October after Fremont County Sheriff’s Office officers, alerted by reports of an unpleasant odor allegedly emanating from it, conducted a search. According to NBC News, the investigation into this case has been given the “highest priority.”
At least 189 bodies in funeral home building
On October 13, officers from the Fremont County Coroner’s Office, “with the assistance of several entities,” removed the bodies of at least 189 people from the Return to Nature Funeral Home. That number may change as identification and investigation continue, the sheriff’s office said in a statement issued Tuesday. The bodies found in the funeral home were transported to the El Paso County coroner’s office, approximately 30 miles away.
According to the information posted on the funeral home’s website, it specializes in “green burials”, during which no chemicals or embalming fluids are used and the bodies are buried in biodegradable coffins. “A green burial is a way to take care of a loved one with minimal impact on the environment,” it was advertised on the Internet.
The process of identifying the remains could take “several months”
The next phase of the investigation conducted at the Return to Nature funeral home will be the identification of the bodies found there. Due to the volume of remains, the process could take “several months,” the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement.
– I want to assure everyone whose loved ones stayed at the Return to Nature Funeral Home that these remains will be treated with the utmost care and respect. Our hearts go out to everyone affected by this tragedy, said the Fremont County coroner, quoted on the local sheriff’s office website. “We will take all possible measures to give families the answers they deserve,” he said.
Funeral home owner accused
Jan Hallford, the owner of a funeral home, was accused of trying to cover up the improper storage of bodies – reports the BBC. The Washington Post adds that the company’s license has been revoked and its operations have been suspended. Colorado law allows “green burials.” However, the body must then be buried within 24 hours or properly cooled.
cbi.colorado.gov, crimewatch.net, NBC News, BBC, Washington Post
Main photo source: David Zalubowski/Associated Press/East News