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Families react to delays in funeral home owners trial process, await a potential new bond decision

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) - With a longer wait before the trial can start, families are frustrated with the delay to justice in the Return to Nature Funeral Home investigation after court proceedings on Thursday.

RELATED REPORTING: 13Investigates Penrose Funeral Home Investigation

Jon and Carrie Hallford, the owners of the Return to Nature Funeral Home in Penrose, CO, were arrested in Oklahoma in November of 2023 and are both facing more than 200 felony charges after nearly 200 bodies were discovered at the property in October of 2023.

Families of victims knew that it was going to be a long court process since Jon and Carie Hallford were arrested in early November, but now they'll have to wait until June for the couple to plead guilty or not guilty to the 260-plus charges they're accused of.

For some families, Thursday's court hearing was the first time seeing Jon and Carie in person, like Austin DeWolf, who was in the courtroom with his mother Heather.

DeWolf's older brother, Zach, was amongst the 189 bodies found in the Hallford's funeral home in Penrose. Now he's frustrated that the couple won't enter a plea until June. 

"They're just hoping that by pushing it back, this will fade from the public eye. But it won't fade from mine," said DeWolf.

Despite battling pain after a recent knee surgery, family member Samantha Naranjo also came to court. 

"It's frustrating because I wanted to know what they were going to say.  If they're guilty, they're going to take the charges. If they're not guilty, why? what's your defense?" explained Naranjo, whose grandmother was sent to be cremated by the Hallfords in October of 2022.

Many families scoffed in court as the prosecution revealed they found that one of Jon's teenage sons, whom he cited as a reason he should have his bond lowered to get out of jail, because he was still in high school, is actually 18 years old, had graduated last year, and is living with grandparents in Oklahoma.

Jon's defense said that he never lied and that the Hallfords have a 17-year-old daughter who is still in school but is in Flordia. The judge gave the defense 14 days to file a response so he could decide if Jon's bond would be reassessed.

On Thursday night at 7 p.m., families are holding an online chat session to discuss their feelings about the hearing. They say connecting with each other has helped with their long journey toward healing.

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Tyler Cunnington

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


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