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‘Very relieved’: Ceremony held for families as demolition of Penrose funeral home begins

PENROSE, Colo. (KRDO) - After months of delays, the demolition of the Return to Nature Funeral Home in Penrose, Colorado officially began on Tuesday. A ceremony organized by Fremont County officials invited families onto the property, marking the start of closure for many.

Teary eyes and photographs of loved ones filled the seats under a tent Tuesday morning for a ceremony held by the Fremont County Coroner, Randy Keller.

Keller was joined by Fremont County Commissioner Kevin Grantham, as well as a local pastor to share condolences to families, and gratitude to the many agencies involved in the investigation and demolition.

Over four dozen families filed onto the property to get one final look at the building that once housed their deceased beloved. The site had been closed off since October.

Once the speakers finished sharing their thoughts, the Environmental Protection Agency began the demolition with an honorary scrape off the roof with a backhoe. After families left the tented area close to 11 a.m., the EPA personnel continued their work and demolished a section of the ground floor and roof together.

It was a morning filled with many emotions; excitement, happiness, sadness, uncertainty. But overall it left many with a bit of optimism to move forward with.

Mary Simons was in attendance. KRDO13 first spoke to her on October 5, 2023, as she wondered if her husband Darrell was one of the bodies inside the building being investigated just miles from her home near Cañon City. It's a building she said she used to pay rent to her landlord in years ago, and still drives by most days, which has haunted her.

In the time since first speaking to us, Simons' husband was identified by the El Paso County Coroner as one of the bodies discovered inside. The owners of the funeral home, Jon and Carie Hallford, have also been brought up on nearly 300 charges on the state and federal level. Simons said the demolition is a long time coming.

"I'm excited. I'm happy. I feel like I can finally start healing, finally get some closure. But I'm so sad too, I'm so sad for all of us that have had to go through this nightmare," Simons said.

The EPA says the demolition will take about 10 days from start to finish. The debris from the building, as well as the topsoil from beneath the foundation, will be brought to an Otero County landfill, east of Penrose.

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Tyler Cunnington

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


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