Reportedly, 189 decaying carcasses were stored at one of a Colorado funeral home’s two facilities managed by a married couple. The Penrose, Arizona, authorities paid a visit after receiving a complaint about a foul odor coming from the storefront. Sheriff Allen Cooper of Fremont County described what they found as “horrific.”
The Guardian reports that the next day after the odor complaint, police called Return to Nature funeral home owner Jon Hallford. The proprietor admitted there was a problem, but he also made an attempt to deflect blame by saying that he did taxidermy there.
Halford and his wife offered “green” burial services, which included cremation and body preparation without chemicals like embalming fluids. The company stopped offering cremations in July after the company they had used for the service ended their business relationship and sued them over unpaid bills.
Before authorities intervened, the Halfords had started falling behind on their tax payments and had gotten an eviction notice for one of their stores. Since the Penrose facility was unlicensed, the Department of Regulatory Agencies issued a cease-and-desist order to the business and suspended the license for the company’s second location in Colorado Springs.
According to their website, Return to Nature is still accepting new clients for green burials. There is no mention of chemical embalming being required, although it does indicate that bodies that won’t be buried within 24 hours must be kept refrigerated. According to the Denver Post, as long as the pair hasn’t faced any criminal charges or state actions, they are free to open a new business in another state.
Because of this and other issues, legislators have been trying to tighten rules on the sector. The Colorado House recently enacted HR 22-1073, allowing law enforcement to enter licensed funeral establishments at any time during business hours. Until 2022, funeral homes in the state were not subject to random inspections.