Colorado: At least 189 decomposing bodies discovered at Penrose funeral home

Neighbors called authorities due to the bad smell emanating from the "green" funeral home, which is called Return to Nature.

The Colorado Bureau of Investigation reported that authorities recovered at least 189 decomposing bodies at a Penrose funeral home known as Return to Nature. The CBI detailed that it is investigating the case.

"While the investigation for this incident continues, we also remain focused on the impacted families. We want to do all we can to provide the families the support they need as we shift to the next phase in this process," Fremont County Sheriff Allen Cooper said in a statement.

Authorities explained that the number of bodies may increase as the investigations and identification processes progress. "On October 13, 2023, all decedents were removed from the Return to Nature Funeral Home in Penrose. The effort was coordinated by the Fremont County Coroner’s Office with support from several entities. Teams removed at least 189 individuals and transported them to the El Paso County Coroner's Office," the Colorado Bureau of Investigation said.

'We are conducting extensive coordination efforts'

Likewise, it was learned that the second phase of the process, which will begin in the coming days, includes confirming the identification of the bodies and finishing notifying the next of kin, although there is no estimated completion time. "Family notifications will be conducted by a team led by the Fremont County Coroner’s Office, victim advocates and others," the office detailed.

"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.

According to Colorado Public Radio, "the discovery came after the funeral home owners failed to pay their taxes and were sued for unpaid bills by a crematorium that stopped doing business with them almost a year ago." Authorities also arrived at the scene due to complaints from neighbors about the bad smell coming from the funeral home.

"A day after the foul odor was reported, the director of the state office of Funeral Home and Crematory registration spoke on the phone with owner Jon Hallford. He acknowledged having a 'problem' at the Penrose site and claimed he practiced taxidermy there, according to an order from state officials dated Oct. 5," Colorado Public Radio reported.