Colorado couple arrested in connection with funeral home where 189 bodies found

Authorities have arrested the owner of a Colorado funeral home and his wife in connection with an investigation into nearly 200 bodies that were found improperly stored.

According to a press release by the district attorney's office for Colorado's 4th Judicial District, Jon and Carie Hallford were arrested in Wagoner, Oklahoma. They face charges of abuse of a corpse, theft, money laundering, forgery and unlawful flight.

According to the Nov. 7 affidavits the FBI sought against Jon and Carie Hallford, they each face 249 charges in connection with the investigation.

Families whose loved ones were victims in the Penrose Funeral Home investigation were notified of the arrest on Wednesday.

A hearse and debris can be seen at the rear of the Return to Nature Funeral Home in Penrose, Colo. Thursday, Oct. 5, 2023. Authorities said Thursday they were investigating the improper storage of human remains at a southern Colorado funeral home that performs “green” burials without embalming chemicals or metal caskets. (Jerilee Bennett/The Gazette via AP)

Jon Hallford is listed as the owner of the business, according to Colorado Secretary of State records.

The funeral home is located in Penrose, Colorado, about 33 miles southwest of Colorado Springs.

According to the press release, Colorado's Fourth Judicial District Attorney's office will review the case and file appropriate charges for El Paso County.

"In the meantime, investigators from multiple agencies continue their work to identify bodies discovered during this investigation," the release read. "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."

District Attorney Michael Allen declined to elaborate at a Wednesday news conference why the timeline covers four years. He added an Oklahoma judge will decide on the couple's extradition to Colorado, whether or not they contest it.

He clarified that because Return to Nature Funeral Home is centered in Colorado Springs, that gave his office jurisdiction over the investigation.

The remains of 200 decaying bodies were found and removed from  Return to Nature Funeral Home in Penrose, Colo.
The remains of 200 decaying bodies were found and removed from Return to Nature Funeral Home in Penrose, Colo.

Neither of the Hallfords responded to USA TODAY's requests for comment Wednesday. It's unclear if they have an attorney who can comment on their behalf.

Allen said the couple is being held on a $2 million cash bond, each.

Authorities in October removed at least 189 bodies from the funeral weeks after neighbors reported smelling a foul odor. Fremont County Sheriff Allen Cooper and Coroner Randy Keller said in a joint release on Oct. 17 that all remains were removed on Oct. 13.

Investigators have said the total number of bodies found in the facility could change as they continue investigating and identifying the remains. As of Wednesday, Keller said his office is still identifying the remains, using medical and dental records but finally resorting to DNA records.

The website for Return to Nature Funeral Home has been offline since at least Oct. 31. According to the Wayback Machine, an internet archive website, the funeral home's website was last active on Oct. 18.

The Facebook page and phone number connected to the funeral home have also been inactive since the end of October. The funeral home has been in business since 2017, according to public records, and has locations in Colorado Springs and Penrose.

Return to Nature Funeral Home is known for having "green" burials where embalming chemicals or metal caskets are not used. A burial there costs about $1,895 and doesn't include the casket and cemetery space, according to an archive of the website.

Contributing: Thao Nguyen, Jeanine Santucci, USA TODAY; Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Penrose Colorado funeral home couple arrested for 4 felonies