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The EPA will begin to demolish the Return To Nature Funeral Home in Penrose next week

Return to Nature Funeral Home
Funeral Home
Posted at 10:05 AM, Apr 11, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-11 12:05:45-04

PENROSE, Colo. — Demolition for the Return To Nature Funeral Home in Penrose will begin next week. The building is located along Highway 115 in Fremont County.

In October of last year, investigators found 190 bodies improperly stored inside.

Next Tuesday, the Environmental Protection Agency will start to tear down the building. The agency said it will take ten days.

One victim's family said this building being demolished is one more step in their healing process.

“I can't wait for it to start,” Mary Simons, whose husband Darrell's remains were found inside the funeral home, said.

Simons said it's time for the Return to Nature funeral home to be demolished.

“I am hoping I can be there, I can work it out at work and stuff, so I can be there at least on the first day and watch that start to come down. I just can't wait,” Simons said.

She said driving past the building has been difficult for her.

“It's got a lot of weird negative emotions when you go past out there and you just feel it. You know, I mean, just when you get near it, you feel something bad and I can't wait for it to be gone. I'm so excited about that,” Simons said.

In a press conference on Wednesday, Fremont County Coroner Randy Keller said there are still 18 bodies they are trying to identify.

“I have moved forward with the DNA process on those remaining individuals. My goal is to identify every loved one from this facility,” Keller said.

He said the process could take months. This week, EPA crews are on site doing preparations including monitoring the air quality.

“You'll start to see site deliveries being made, you'll start seeing people on site setting things up. You'll also see some of our crews going in there to do checks and starting those basic site preparations in order for us just to get to the point of starting the demolition,” Valeriy Bizyayev, EPA on-scene coordinator for the funeral home demolition, said.

He said before they demolish the building, they will disinfect it.

“We're essentially using a chemical, it's called PAA and it's essentially for those who know acetic acid, which is vinegar,” Bizyayev said.

Next, the building materials will be moved in parts to the Otero County Landfill, according to Bizyayev.

The EPA is warning people that they may notice a strong odor near the funeral home, but they said there is no health risk to the public.

One Fremont County Commissioner said after the demolition, the future of the property is unknown. Simons hopes the area could be a memorial for the victims and their families.

“I still believe if we could put up a memorial, everybody's name needs to go up out there, you know, make it someplace healing for us victims,” Simons said.

There will be a ceremony to honor the victims before demolition starts. It will take place on the property of the Return to Nature Funeral Home in Penrose at 9 a.m. Tuesday, April 16. It is only open to the families directly affected by this situation.

Demolition of Return to Nature Funeral Home to begin next week