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News / Nation & World

Funeral home owner accused of abandoning nearly 200 decomposing bodies to appear in court

By COLLEEN SLEVIN, Associated Press
Published: February 8, 2024, 8:02am

DENVER (AP) — A Colorado funeral home owner who authorities say abandoned nearly 200 bodies in a building infested with maggots and flies was set to appear in court Thursday to hear prosecutors’ evidence against him.

Jon Hallford and his wife, Carie Hallford, who owned the Back to Nature Funeral Home in Colorado Springs, are each charged with 190 counts of abuse of a corpse, five counts of theft, four counts of money laundering and over 50 counts of forgery. In addition to their funeral home, they used a building in the nearby rural community of Penrose as a body storage facility, prosecutors say.

The couple were arrested in November in Oklahoma. Carie Hallford had an evidentiary hearing last month. Neither one of them has entered a plea yet. Investigators have been gathering since October, when the bodies were found.

Several families who hired Return to Nature to cremate their relatives have told The Associated Press that the FBI confirmed their remains were among the decaying bodies.

At Carie Hallford’s evidentiary hearing, prosecutors presented text messages suggesting that she and her husband tried to cover up their financial difficulties by leaving the bodies at the Penrose site. They didn’t elaborate. The building had makeshift refrigeration units that were not operating at the time the bodies were found, FBI agent Andrew Cohen testified. Fluid from decomposition covered the floors, he said.

According to prosecutors, Jon Hallford was worried about getting caught as far back as 2020 and suggested getting rid of the bodies by dumping them in a big hole, then treating them with lye or setting them on fire.

“My one and only focus is keeping us out of jail,” he wrote in one text message, prosecutors allege.

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