Funeral Home Investigated Over Allegedly Mishandling Bodies

( – A funeral home in Colorado is under investigation for allegedly storing bodies improperly. The Return to Nature Funeral Home in Penrose offers a “green” alternative to traditional funerals and while police would not specify the condition of 115 bodies at the site, they did hint that they had not been refrigerated as required by law.

Fremont County Sheriff Allen Cooper said no arrests were made, but said investigations are ongoing and described what he’d discovered at the funeral home as “horrific” and “disturbing.” He added that identifying the remains would be a long process but families could be assured that bodies would be treated with “the utmost care and respect.”

Law enforcement officers attended the scene after nearby residents reported a “putrid” smell emanating from the building. Having secured a search warrant, officers attended and found the remains.

Return to Nature specifies that its burials aid in the “conservation of natural resources” and do not use “harsh embalming chemicals, metallic, plastic or unnatural items.” Its website also notes the law and acknowledges that state law requires refrigeration with 24 hours of death.

The Colorado Bureau of Investigation, the FBI, the Fremont County Coroners’ Office, and the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies have all become involved in the case and are working to determine what criminal offenses have been committed. The Colorado Office of Funeral Home and Crematory Registration said that John Hallford, the owner of Return to Nature, initially tried to conceal his burial methods and claimed he was carrying out taxidermy at the site.

Furthermore, a local news agency documented several legal cases involving Mr. Hallford dating back years. KRDO news stated that Hallford owes thousands of dollars to various parties resulting from civil disputes and that his business license was suspended in November last year.

In defending his unusual practices, Hallford lashed out at traditional burial procedures saying, “Being chemically embalmed you are transforming your body into a toxic substance for all of eternity.”

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