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Colorado funeral home customers believe they received fake ashes made of concrete mix

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) - Families who paid Return to Nature Funeral Home for cremation services worry the ashes they received are fake.

Woodland Park resident Yong Anderson died in June. Her family paid Return to Nature nearly $1,500 for cremation services. From the beginning, the family said there were red flags.

“They said that it would take about a week for my mom to be cremated and for us to get her remains back,” said Tanya Wilson, Anderson’s daughter. “Then they just kept pushing the date back.”

When the family eventually received the ashes 11 days after their mother died, they flew to Hawaii to scatter them in the ocean.

“My mom's last wish was to be released in a place that she loved,” Wilson said. “She lived in Hawaii for over 20 years. That was her happiest year. That was her wish. We chartered a boat and everything and we released what we thought were her ashes.”

Anderson’s death certificate names Wilbert Funeral Services as the company that cremated her, but when the family called Wilbert, it said it stopped cremating for Return to Nature Funeral Home in November 2022 — seven months before Anderson died.

13 Investigates reported that in March, Wilbert Funeral Services filed a lawsuit against the owners of Return to Nature Funeral Home, Jon and Carrie Hallford, claiming the couple owes them $21,286.26 for “goods and services rendered.”

“Everything kind of points to the idea that our mother was never actually cremated and the ashes that we were given are either someone else's or not even human remains at all,” Wilson said.

Wilson said she kept some of her mother’s ashes to take back to Georgia, where she lives. With growing suspicion, she took the ashes to a funeral director.

“I've never seen human ashes before, so I don't know what they're supposed to look like,” Wilson said. “(The funeral director) said as soon as she saw them that it wasn't consistent with anything that she's ever seen before.”

Wilson said the funeral director told her ashes are supposed to have variations in color and size, resembling rocky sand, but she described her mother’s ashes as very fine powder and compared it to Quikrete mix.

“I think we released fake ashes thinking that they were my mom,” Wilson said.

Wilson then conducted her own experiment. She said she bought Quikrete mix from the store and added water to both the mix and her mother’s ashes.

“The reaction, it looked very, very similar, the consistency and everything,” Wilson said. “Then when it dried, it dried into little tiny rocks, very, very similar. It gave me confirmation that I believe it's concrete.”

The Colorado Bureau of Investigations declined to comment on the allegations that the ashes are a concrete mix, stating the investigation is active and ongoing.

Wilson told 13 Investigates she received a call from officials Friday stating families would be notified this week if their loved one was one of the recent bodies identified. Wilson said she is now waiting to find out if the ashes they released in Hawaii were actually her mom’s.

“I just want this to be over,” she said. “I want them to identify her so we can respect her in the way that she wanted to be respected.”

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Quinn Ritzdorf

Quinn is a reporter with the 13 Investigates team. Learn more about him here.


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