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State ignored coroner’s warning about Penrose funeral home, years before 189 bodies were found


EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. (KRDO) - New arrest documents shed disturbing and graphic details about Jon and Carie Hallford, the couple whose funeral home in Penrose was discovered to have 189 decomposing bodies in October of 2023.

****Warning: The details included within the arrest affidavit, and this article, are very graphic and disturbing.****

The documents lay out years of evidence towards the 260 felony charges that investigators charged the Hallford's with. The husband and wife will now be headed to trial following a preliminary hearing for Jon on Thursday afternoon, where families spoke their mind at the funeral home owner while leaving the courthouse.

Among the arrest records, investigators reveal that to their knowledge the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA), the state agency that oversees the funeral home industry, did not conduct an inspection of the Return to Nature Funeral Home during their years of operation.

The documents then say, that investigators learned in 2020 that the Fremont County Coroner made DORA aware of the suspicions about the poor treatment of human bodies and improper refrigeration at the Penrose location. The Fremont County Coroner stated to investigators, that he never received a reply from DORA.

The arrest papers also go into great detail about what the inside of the Penrose building looked like when investigators searched it in early October. It includes descriptions of dead bodies being stacked on top of one another, so much so they were blocking doorways to other rooms. A caption of a redacted picture details what is not shown: a pile of 40 bodies, laid on top of one another.

The document also describes the floor, as being covered in a brown sludge, created by a mixture of decomposition matter from the dozens of bodies. It explains that insects and maggots were abundant in the facility.

Investigators noted that the temperature inside the building, detected by a thermometer on the wall, was about 70 degrees Fahrenheit. In court on Thursday, testimony from an investigator explained that the temperature at which deceased bodies are supposed to be stored is 35 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

The documents also say that a bone grinder was found while searching the building, and next to it was a bag of Quickcrete concrete mix/resurfacer, and that an empty bag of the Quickcrete was found in a container with other trash.

Investigators go on to say they believe that Quickcrete mix and possibly some other substances, were used to fill urns and subsequently given to the families of the deceased, giving credence to the suspicions held by families for months.

Arrest papers also go into depth about the Hallford's finances between 2019 to 2023.

It includes a chart detailing the gross income, showing the couple raked in $765,139 over the course of 2019, 2020 and 2021. The chart shows that the Hallfords averaged 25 bodies, or clients, per month, and earned just over $21,000 per month.

On Thursday, prosecutors laid out evidence of four charges of money laundering against Jon Hallford. The prosecuting team argued that the Hallfords bought and sold two cars over the course of three years, spending money that they were earning from their business, instead of performing the burial services that families paid them to do.

The prosecutor argued they could have cremated each of the 189 bodies twice, with the money they earned during the period in which they bought those two cars.

In reviewing the thousands of pages in bank account statements, investigators said they found many purchases within the categories of Travel and Entertainment, Bars, Food and Restaurants, as well as Crypto Currency Investments. Amongst those expenditures, includes a $1,500 dinner bill in Las Vegas in February of 2022.

The judge decided the four money laundering charges were valid, and would be held over to trial along with the 250-plus felony charges they face, including Abuse of a Corpse, Theft and Forgery.

The two will be appearing in court for their arraignments on March 21, when if the two both plead in the same manner, guilty or not guilty, they will then be tried together.

District Attorney Michael Allen stated in a press conference after Thursday's hearing, that his office is "hopeful" they will be able to get the case to trial in 2024, but could not indefinitely say that would be the case.

KRDO13 Investigates is continuing to sift through the affidavit document. If you'd like to read it yourself, click here.

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Tyler Cunnington

Tyler is a reporter for KRDO. Learn more about him here.


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