The owners of a funeral home where 190 sets of human remains were ‘improperly stored’ have been arrested

The owners of a Colorado funeral home were arrested Wednesday in Oklahoma, weeks after 190 sets of human remains were discovered “improperly stored” at their business, authorities say.

Jon Hallford and Carie Hallford were arrested on suspicion of abuse of a corpse, theft, money laundering and forgery, according to a news release from the district attorney’s office.

An investigation began after a foul odor was reported coming from the Return to Nature Funeral Home in Penrose, about 30 miles south of Colorado Springs. Fremont County Sheriff Allen Cooper said in October that human remains were found mproperly stored at the site – which offered “green burials.”

The remains were discovered after a search warrant was executed on October 4.

A total of 190 bodies have been found to date, 110 of which have been positively identified, Fremont County Coroner Randy Keller said.

“We have notified approximately 137 families,” said Keller. “We have released approximately 25 loved ones back to their families as of today.”

The probable cause affidavit for the arrest is currently sealed, DA’s spokesperson Kate Singh told CNN, but District Attorney Michael J. Allen said his office would not contest unsealing the affidavit at the appropriate time. “I want to warn you the information contained in that affidavit is absolutely shocking,” Allen said Wednesday.

Jon and Carie Hallford - Muskogee County Sheriff's Office
Jon and Carie Hallford - Muskogee County Sheriff's Office

The Hallfords are in custody in Wagoner, Oklahoma, awaiting an extradition hearing, the district attorney’s office said.

It was not clear Wednesday morning if the Hallfords had an attorney, and court records of previous legal matters involving Jon Hallford did not list an attorney for him.

“I am relieved that criminal charges have been brought against the funeral home owner and a criminal investigation is proceeding. I know this will not bring peace to the families impacted by this heart-wrenching incident but we hope the individuals responsible are held fully accountable in a court of law,” Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said in a statement.

Polis previously issued a local disaster emergency to make state resources available to assist with the investigation.

“I want to give a heartfelt thanks to Gov. Polis for his disaster declaration, because without that, this would have completely demoralized my office,” Cooper, the Fremont County sheriff, said Wednesday.

His staff had been deeply impacted by the investigation, he said. “I can say unequivocally that it was a very negative impact.”

According to Return to Nature Funeral Home’s website, the funeral home offers “green burials,” without embalming fluid, in a biodegradable casket or “nothing at all.”

The company also operates a facility in Colorado Springs, according to the website. The funeral home previously offered cremation services but stopped in July 2023, the website states.

CNN’s Lauren Mascarenhas, Mitchell McCluskey, Andy Rose and Andi Babineau contributed to this report.

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