UPDATE: FRIDAY 10/6/2023 10:48 a.m.
(FREMONT COUNTY, Colo.) — “My office made a very disturbing discovery in the town of Penrose, Colorado,” Sheriff Allen Cooper of the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office (FCSO) said during a press conference on Friday, Oct. 6 regarding its investigation into the Return to Nature Funeral Home located at 31 Werner Road in Penrose.
According to Sheriff Cooper, on Wednesday, Oct. 4, FCSO discovered 115 bodies that were improperly stored at the funeral home. Due to the gravity of the situation, Governor Jared Polis also issued a Disaster Declaration on Thursday, Oct. 5, freeing up state agencies to assist in the investigation.
There have been no arrests made as of Friday, according to Sheriff Cooper.
Randy Keller, the Fremont County Coroner said once the discovery of improperly stored bodies was made after reports of an odor coming from the building, the scene was deemed hazardous.
“This is going to be a very, very lengthy process,” stressed Keller, adding that with the number of bodies found and the identification process that will follow, the investigation could take several months.
According to Keller at the initial entry, a deputy coroner apparently sustained a rash of some type from the facility and was later transported to the hospital where they are fortunately going to be okay. Keller added this is “another reason why hazmat has to be in there before we move forward with the investigation.”
“I don’t believe there is any risk to anyone in the public at this time,” assured Keller.
State, federal, and local agencies, along with the 11th Judicial District Attorney’s Office will assist in the investigation, and Sheriff Cooper said its priority and focus will be on the impacted families.
Sheriff Cooper further emphasized that the area of the funeral home where the bodies were stored was horrific and the search area spans about 2,500 square feet.
“The loved ones in the facility will be treated with the utmost care and respect,” said Keller.
Mark Michalek, Special Agent in Charge for FBI Denver also spoke at the press conference and said federal partners will be deployed to provide support including the Technical Hazardous Response Team and the Disaster Recovery Team.
“These are teams with additional training and specialized equipment that serve to process scenes of national magnitude, to include the response to 9/11 and major airline incidents,” explained Michalek. “Our initial work will be to do an assessment of the scene to determine any bio or chemical hazards and create a plan to be able to mitigate those.”
Michalek added that the remains will be transported to a secondary location and its agency will be looking into whether a federal violation was committed.
As the investigation continues, updates will only come from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.
Watch the full Fremont County Sheriff’s Office press conference in the video player below.
ORIGINAL STORY: Funeral home investigation press conference
FRIDAY 10/6/2023 9:02 a.m.
On Friday, Oct. 6 the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office (FCSO) will be holding a press conference about the alleged improperly stored bodies at a funeral home in Penrose, Colorado.
On the evening of Tuesday, Oct. 3 deputies of FCSO were called to 31 Werner Road in Penrose about a “suspicious incident.” Deputies learned that the building was owned by Return to Nature Funeral Home based in Colorado Springs. A search warrant was executed on the property and determined that human remains were improperly stored inside the building.
Return to Nature’s website says they offer green and natural burial services. They promise “no embalming fluid, no concrete vaults, as natural as possible.”
As of Oct. 5, 2023, FCSO was working with the Fremont County Coroners’ Office, The Colorado Bureau of Investigation, the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies, the Colorado Department of Public Health, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
FCSO is asking any family members of decedents who utilized the Return to Nature Funeral Home to send an email to email@example.com or call the Fremont Emergency Management line at (719) 276-7421.
Victims’ assistance personnel will begin responding to messages on Friday.
The press conference will be held at 10 a.m. FOX21 News will be in attendance at the press conference and will provide updates to this story as information becomes available.