200 Rotting Bodies Recovered From 'Environmentally Friendly' Funeral Home

Brittany M. Hughes | October 19, 2023
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If you’ve already eaten lunch today, you might want to stop reading now - you’re liable to upchuck your sandwich.

And if you haven’t eaten yet, I hope you have fond memories of food, since you’re unlikely to ever want to eat again.

Nearly 200 rotting bodies were recovered from an “environmentally friendly” morgue in Colorado this week after authorities say they were improperly stored - i.e., left decomposing - for so long, some of them were only identifiable by DNA.

Opened in 2017, the Return to Nature Funeral Home based in Colorado Springs, Colorado, offered to “environmentally friendly burials” including composting human remains. Investigators showed up to the facility after getting calls complaining of a foul smell coming from the morgue, which neighbors said had been happening for weeks. Upon arrival with a warrant, the cops found what they initially said to be 115 dead bodies crammed into a 2,500-square-foot space.

Turns out, the real number was 189. Which gives you an indication of what authorities found when they opened the door. In fact, conditions were so awful that one of the first responders developed a rash that required medical treatment.

According to reports, owner Jon Hallford, who also taxidermies animals at the facility, had told investigators he was aware of a "problem" with the facility. Authorities added Hallford had tried to conceal the remains, though the report was unclear as to exactly how (I'm guessing a bottle of Febreeze wasn't enough). A cease-and-desist letter also shows the funeral home's business license had expired back in November of 2022.

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Police say they’re currently working on identifying all the bodies and notifying next of kin. The situation is now being investigated by the Fremont County Coroners' Office, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies, the Colorado Department of Public Health and the FBI.

According to its website, the funeral home offered to dispose of human remains without leaving a carbon footprint, advertising: "Green Burial is a natural way of caring for your loved one with minimal environmental impact. Green Burial aids in the conservation of natural resources, reduction of carbon emissions and the preservation of habitat, WITHOUT the use of harsh embalming chemicals, metallic, plastic or unnatural items.” The process costs about $1,895 without casket or cemetery plot costs.

“You can still view your loved one who is NOT embalmed. Embalming is NOT a law. In the state of Colorado within 24 hours the body must be either embalmed or placed in a regulated temperature controlled environment, meaning under refrigeration, dry ice, etc.,” the site continues.

Apparently, the morgue missed their own memo, as I don’t see “leave corpses to turn to goo in a warehouse" anywhere in the description.

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