WAGONER, Okla. (KXRM) — The owners of the Return to Nature Funeral Home, where 189 bodies were found improperly stored at the Penrose location, have been arrested.
According to a press release sent on Wednesday morning, Nov. 8 by the 4th Judicial District Attorney’s Office (DA’s Office), Jon and Carie Hallford were arrested in Wagoner, Oklahoma on suspicion of committing the crimes of Abuse of a Corpse, Theft, Money Laundering, and Forgery, which are all felonies.
Governor Jared Polis also released a statement following the arrests on Wednesday.
“I am relieved that criminal charges have been brought against the funeral home owner and a criminal investigation is proceeding,” said Governor Polis. “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.”
The Federal Bureau of Investigation notified the victims by email at approximately 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday of the arrests. According to the email, the development comes as a result of a joint investigation conducted into the operations of Return to Nature Funeral Home between September 2019 and September 2023 by the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, and the FBI.
The DA’s Office is set to review the investigation and subsequently file appropriate charges in El Paso County District Court. “Because the Hallfords were arrested in a different state, their first advisement in El Paso County District Court will be determined during the extradition process,” wrote the DA’s Office.
“As we know, everybody that is charged with a crime in the state of Colorado is afforded the right to have bond set on their case, both have been set at $2 million,” said 4th Judicial District Attorney Michael Allen.
During a press conference held on Wednesday by the DA’s Office, Allen said the probable cause affidavit for this case has been sealed but warned the information contained inside is “shocking” and it would be up to a judge’s determination for its release.
Fremont County Coroner Randy Keller gave an update on the identification process and said so far, 110 individuals have been positively identified, and they are working to identify 80 others.
Keller stated they are using fingerprints, dental records, and medical hardware to help with the identification process and will move to DNA testing if necessary.
Six teams are currently notifying family members locally, around Colorado, and across the U.S., and according to Keller, 137 families have been notified as of Wednesday and 25 loved ones have been released back to their families.
In October of 2023, an investigation was launched after law enforcement responded to reports of a foul odor coming from the funeral home’s facility in Penrose. Upon a state search warrant being executed, the Fremont County Coroner’s Office and the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies determined that human remains were improperly stored inside the building.
Investigators from multiple agencies continue their work to identify bodies discovered during the investigation. If you or someone you know worked with the Return to Nature Funeral Home between September 2019 and September 2023, the DA’s Office said to complete the Seeking Victim Information Questionnaire.
FOX21 will continue to follow this developing story and will update this article as more information comes in.