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Court proceedings begin against Penrose funeral home owners as both now at El Paso County Jail

EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. (KRDO) -- The owners of Return to Nature Funeral Home, Jon and Carie Hallford, are both back in El Paso County after being arrested while on the run in Oklahoma earlier this month.

The couple were arrested on Nov. 8 in Muskogee, Oklahoma, on charges of Abuse of a Corpse, Theft, Money Laundering, and Forgery, after nearly 200 bodies were found improperly stored at the Return to Nature Funeral Home in Penrose. In addition to improperly storing bodies, several families who used Return to Nature Funeral Home believe they received concrete mix instead of their loved one's ashes.

While Jon was transferred from the Muskogee County Jail to the El Paso County Jail on Wednesday, Carie was in court for an advisement hearing.

During the hearing, her public defender asked the judge to lower the $2 million cash-only bond to $50,000, because Carie had no prior criminal history. However, the 4th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, which is prosecuting the case, asked the judge to keep the bond the same.

The judge decided to keep the bond at $2 million cash-only because she said Carie was a “risk to the community.”

Colorado Springs criminal defense attorney Jeremy Loew said he expected the bond to be lowered but said many factors go into a judge’s decision to set the bond amount.

“That's absolutely something that the courts can take into consideration, the flight risk nature of these individuals, but it's not everything,” Loew said. “They can take other factors into consideration, the strength of the case, the damage to the community, the prior criminal offenses.”

The judge also reminded Carie of the more than 250 felony counts she’s facing. Loew said if more bodies are found or identified during the investigation additional charges or counts can be added up until the trial starts.

“Charges are fluid in any case, especially in a case like this,” Loew said. “As more bodies are identified, the district attorney can absolutely bring more charges against these two individuals.”

Jon joined his wife at the El Paso County Jail on Wednesday afternoon. Loew said the two were transferred at different times likely because they are different genders but also to avoid them talking to one another.

“They are co-defendants now and oftentimes the court doesn't really like co-defendants to be with each other because they can be planning their defense together,” he said.

Despite the couple being co-defendants, Loew said it’s against Colorado law for them to have the same attorney.

“It could very well be that one defendant is pointing the finger at the other defendant,” he said. “You don't want an attorney that has to make the ethical determination whether or not he should present that defense and be essentially selling out one of the co-defendants.”

Jon is scheduled to have his advisement hearing on Friday. After that, Loew said a filing of charges date will be set in the next two to three weeks followed by a preliminary hearing, where the prosecution will have to present enough evidence to show that the alleged crimes were likely to be committed. Although proceedings have now officially started in El Paso County, Loew said this case will drag on for many months.

“We're just getting started,” he said. “This case is going to take months and months and months to resolve, if not longer.”

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Quinn Ritzdorf

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


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