Hallfords plead not guilty in an arraignment hearing on Thursday over federal wire fraud charges

Return to Nature Funeral Home Demolition
Posted at 11:26 AM, Apr 18, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-19 09:00:31-04

DENVER, Colo. — The husband and wife owners of the Return to Nature Funeral Home pleaded not guilty Thursday during an arraignment and detention hearing held in federal district court in Denver.

Jon and Carie Hallford were arrested Sunday by FBI agents after being indicted by a grand jury on felony wire fraud charges.

Magistrate Judge Scott T. Varholak ordered Jon Hallford to be held in custody pre-trial citing an elevated flight risk.

Carie Hallford was ordered to be released to a halfway house, but as there is currently no space for her, she will be held in custody until Tuesday when she will be in a separate hearing.

The Hallfords were originally arrested in Oklahoma in November of 2023 at a house belonging to Jon's parents.

They face 260 counts in the criminal case brought by the 4th Judicial District Attorney's Office. The charges include abuse of a corpse, money laundering, theft, and forgery.

Investigators discovered 190 decomposing inside the Return to Nature Funeral Home in Penrose in October.

Prosecutors say the couple deceived their customers by promising to cremate their loved ones but then provided them with concrete mix instead of ashes.

In arguing that Jon Hallford should be held in custody before the federal case is held, the US Attorney's Office pointed to text messages that Jon sent to Carie in 2020 suggesting he knew the business was breaking the law by storing bodies stacked on top of one another at the building in Penrose.

Hallford text message 01.png

"I don't give a f*** about this family, I'll give a f*** about what's happening in Penrose, are (sic) not going to prison and getting the f*** out of this community. My one and only focus is keeping us out of jail, what is yours?" Jon wrote in a message dated May 5, 2020.

He wrote about potential methods for disposing of the bodies that were improperly stored in Penrose in another text message from October 6, 2020. It reads:

"By December 6th we need to begin cleaning and restoring the building in Penrose to be out by Dec. 31st.


A. - Build a new machine ASAP

B. Dig a big hole and use lye

Where ?

C. Dig a small hole and build a large fire

Where ?

D. I go to prison, which is probably what's going to happen."

Hallford text message 02.png

Crystina Page trusted the Hallfords and Return to Nature following the death of her son David Jaxon Page in 2019. The Fremont County Coroner identified David as one of the bodies discovered in Penrose.

"I walked away on Monday after our first federal hearing feeling like there was hope for the first time, I think. And today, this I think bolsters that," she said following the hearing.

Abby Swoveland was also listening to the hearing. She was a customer of Return to Nature when her mother Sally died last August.

Swoveland said was very happy with the outcome of the hearing.

"I, of course, would have preferred that she remain in custody, but I'm more okay with the fact that she won't because she's been remanded to a halfway house," Swoveland said.

Both Swoveland and Page were surprised to learn that the Hallfords were living in a hotel in Colorado Springs and working as DoorDash delivery drivers while out of jail on bond from their state criminal case.

"What if one of us had ordered DoorDash and opened our door and one of the Hallfords was standing there," Swoveland said. "I can't even fathom the trauma that that would bring up."

KOAA News5 has a full timeline of the developing events of the Return to Nature Funeral Home. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is running point on the demolition.

On Tuesday morning, crews started by strapping off parts of the roof on the south side of the building. Throughout the day, they slowly tore down more of the ceiling and walls on the east, west and south sides of the building.

Return to Nature Funeral Home Demolition

The demolition officially began on Tuesday and many of the victims' families came to see it come down. Officials in Fremont County held a ceremony to help give families of those victims closure and peace.

According to the EPA, the demolition will take 10 days. Once this building is disinfected and torn down, all of the materials will be transported and disposed of at the Otero County Landfill.

This is a developing story.


Fremont Co. Sheriff recalls 'horrific' scene at funeral home where 115 'improperly stored' bodies discovered

Investigation into 115 bodies continues at Return to Nature Funeral Home in Penrose

Governor declares emergency disaster for Penrose funeral home, months-long identification process expected

State records: Penrose funeral home owner attempted to conceal improperly stored remains

Coroner: Some remains in Return to Nature Funeral Home investigation were 'several years old'

Class action lawsuit filed against Return to Nature where 189 remains were discovered

'I want to help,' one women encourages Return to Nature Funeral Home victims, to reach out to her for support

I'm losing him all over again’: Widow fears husband a victim in funeral home investigation

Authorities in Oklahoma arrest owners of Return to Nature Funeral Home

Owners of Return to Nature Funeral Home appear in El Paso County Court

Judge agrees to unseal arrest papers for one of the Penrose funeral home owners

Judge reduces bond for funeral home owner accused of improperly storing 190 bodies

Return to Nature Funeral Home owner bonds out of El Paso County Jail Tuesday

Co-owner of Penrose funeral home released on bail Monday night, families react

One of the owners of the Return to Nature Funeral in court today

Jury trial expected for Return to Nature funeral home owners, arraignment hearing postponed

Penrose funeral home owners facing federal charges, accused of misusing COVID relief money


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