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Funeral home owners accused of storing nearly 200 decomposing bodies to plead guilty

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COLORADO SPRINGS, CO. — The owners of a Colorado funeral home where nearly 200 decomposing bodies were found last year in a building filled with decomposition fluids and swarms of insects are expected to plead Thursday to criminal charges.

Jon and Carie Hallford are accused of abusing corpses, falsifying death certificates and sending fake ashes to families who then scattered the cremated remains or kept them for years believing they belonged to their relatives.

The couple operated Return to Nature Funeral Home in Colorado Springs and a warehouse in the small Rocky Mountain town of Penrose, where the bodies were found. They spent payments received from the families of the deceased on cryptocurrency, a $1,500 dinner in Las Vegas and two vehicles worth a total of more than $120,000, officials said in a previous court hearing.

The disturbing details of the case have left families searching for answers, their grieving process shattered after the deaths of their sons, grandmothers and parents. Some said they couldn’t shake the look of their loved ones’ bodies decomposing.

It’s one of several criminal cases that have rocked Colorado’s funeral industry. A funeral home was accused of selling body parts between 2010 and 2018, and last month a Denver funeral home owner was arrested after authorities said he left the body of a woman in the back of a hearse for more than a year and that he had hoarded the cremated remains at his home. .

These horror stories follow years of inaction by state lawmakers to bring Colorado’s lax funeral home regulations in line with those in the rest of the country. There are no routine inspections of funeral homes in the state and no training requirements for funeral home directors, who don’t even need a high school diploma, much less a a diploma in mortuary sciences, or to pass an exam.

Colorado lawmakers have proposed bills to overhaul funeral home oversight. They would require routine inspections and strict licensing requirements for funeral home directors and other roles in the industry.

Concerns about improper handling of bodies at the Hallford funeral home were raised by a county coroner more than three years before the discovery of the 190 bodies.

Prosecutors previously said Jon Hallford expressed concerns about his arrest as early as 2020 and suggested disposing of the bodies by throwing them in a large hole and then treating them with lye or setting them on fire.

The Hallfords each face approximately 190 counts of abuse of a corpse, as well as charges of theft, money laundering and forgery.

Carie Hallford’s attorney, Michael Stuzynski, declined to comment on the case. Jon Hallford is represented by an attorney with the public defender’s office, which does not comment on cases.



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