Relatives watch as the Colorado funeral owners accused of mishandling 190 remains appear in court

Jon and Carie Halford are accused of abusing corpses, stealing, laundering money and forging documents.
Return to Nature Funeral Home
Posted at 8:37 AM, Dec 05, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-05 19:02:21-05

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — Relatives who knew or feared their loved ones were among the 190 abandoned bodies found decomposing in a Colorado funeral home watched in person for the first time as the owners of the business appeared before a judge.

Jon and Carie Halford are accused of abusing corpses, stealing, laundering money and forging documents. Investigators discovered dozens of stacked bodies in a funeral home facility in Penrose, Colorado, in October.

Some remains had death dates as far back as 2019.

The Hallfords were arrested in Oklahoma and appeared in court Tuesday in Colorado Springs. They face charges including dozens of counts of abuse of a corpse. Attorneys for the Hallfords declined comment.

At an advisement hearing more than a week ago, a judge told Jon Hallford there is probable cause for the 250 charges against him. However, those charges could change even more at Tuesday's hearing.

The arrest affidavits for the Hallfords claim that on October 3, "law enforcement was alerted to a horrific odor of decomposing bodies" coming from the funeral home. The next day, Jon Hallford was contacted by an investigator from the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) who wanted to go inside the building. According to his affidavit, Jon Hallford told the investigator he was using the funeral home in Penrose to "learn how to do taxidermy and that he knew he had a problem there."

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Jon Hallford set an appointment to meet with DORA in the afternoon on October 4, but never came to the funeral home. That was the last time Jon Hallford communicated with law enforcement, the affidavit states, before the Hallfords were arrested in Oklahoma.

Investigators executed a search warrant at the property, and discovered 190 bodies. According to arrest papers, "bodies were stacked on top of each other and some were not in body bags."

Both Jon and Carie Hallford remain in the El Paso County Jail on a $2 million bond each. Attorneys for both Hallfords declined to comment.

"I don't really think given everything that they've done, justice is ever going to be served. There's not enough jail time or prison time, that will make up for what they did," Tanya Wilson said after her family used the Return to Nature Funeral Home for her mother.

A family is fighting for state funeral directors to be licensed amid the investigation into the Hallfords.

Since funeral directors are not licensed, that subject would be part of a sunrise review, which is expected to be published by December. Once the sunset reviews are finished, the public will have the chance to provide feedback related to funeral directors and licensing during the sunrise process, Katie O'Donnell, director of communications and public engagement for DORA, told Denver7 in an email.

DORA— the Department of Regulatory Agencies— is the state agency that regulates funeral homes.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Owners of funeral home where 190 decaying bodies were found are due to appear in court