Funeral home owners arrested after 189 decomposing bodies found inside

The bodies were found at a funeral home in Colorado.

ByMark Osborne, Jon Haworth, and Jeff Cook
November 8, 2023, 1:07 PM

The owners of a Colorado funeral home where 189 decomposing bodies were found have now been arrested, according to authorities.

The improperly stored bodies sparked the governor to declare a local disaster emergency and call for assistance from the FBI.

On Wednesday, the owners of the funeral home, Jon and Carie Hallford, were arrested in Wagoner, Oklahoma, according to District Attorney Michael J. Allen, of Colorado's 4th Judicial District. The husband and wife were arrested on suspicion of abuse of a corpse, theft, money laundering and forgery, according to Allen's office.

They are being held on $2 million cash bond and are going through the extradition process to Colorado now. The officials called the details within the sealed affidavit "absolutely shocking."

Authorities responded to The Return to Nature Funeral Home in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in October after nearby residents reported smelling a foul odor coming from the shuttered building. The Fremont County Sheriff's Office got a warrant to enter the property and found the decomposing bodies. Initially, the sheriff's office reported 115 bodies being found. That number was later increased to 189 bodies.

PHOTO: There were 115 decomposing bodies found at Return to Nature funeral home in Penrose, Colo., on Oct. 4, 2023.
There were 115 decomposing bodies found at Return to Nature funeral home in Penrose, Colo., on Oct. 4, 2023.

The bodies were in such bad condition that they are being identified through DNA, officials said. So far, 110 of the bodies have been identified, officials said Thursday.

“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,” said Fremont County Coroner Randy Keller said last month.

"Without providing too much detail to avoid further victimizing these families, the area of the funeral home where the bodies were improperly stored was horrific," Fremont County Sheriff Allen Cooper said at a press conference last month.

The scene was so bad when authorities first arrived that a paramedic who responded developed a rash and had to be medically evaluated, Cooper said.