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Families victimized by funeral home scandals celebrate passing of new bills for more regulations

DENVER, Colo. (KRDO) - Friday marked a monumental day for families who have been victimized by funeral home tragedies in Colorado.

Families stood shoulder to shoulder Friday alongside lawmakers while Governor Jared Polis inked his signature on three different bills at the Governor's Mansion in Denver, turning them into law.

The new laws enact more regulations, oversight, and requirements for funeral home industry professionals.

"Our nightmares will never go away, you know the feelings we have, I mean, there's people and families who will never trust the funeral industry, you know. You can't erase those things, but you can make it better for everybody else. And I think that that was our whole purpose." explained Sheila Canfield-Jones, who has been at the forefront of working with the sponsors of those bills, ever since her daughter's body was left to decompose in the Return to Nature Funeral home in Penrose, CO.

Alongside Canfield-Jones on the stage were fellow victims of funeral home crimes, Abby Swoveland and Danielle McCarthy. Other families whose loved ones were involved in scandals were seated in the garden where the governor's signing took place.

Pictured (left) Sheila Canfield-Jones, Abby Swoveland and Danielle McCarthy (right)

Swoveland joins Canfield-Jones was a victim of Return to Nature. Her mother was among those found at the Penrose location.

"Now no other families have to worry about what we went through and going through that. And that's the best thing there is. That's the only positive that could have come from these tragedies." she said.

Danielle McCarthy has long been pushing for more regulations in the death industry in Colorado. Her husband was identified by the FBI as a victim of a body-part-selling scandal in Montrose, CO in 2018. She only received what was left of her husband in the Spring of 2024, nearly six years later.

"This has been a long time in coming for us," said McCarthy. "And grateful, grateful that we did get something done this year," she added, saying she was glad the Return to Nature victims are getting some closure just several months after being struck with the investigation in Penrose.

The pain and patience of those families were rewarded by legislators after the governor made his ceremonial signings. The lawmakers gifted the pens that Governor Polis used to sign each of the bills, which were given to them, McCarthy, Canfield-Jones, and Swoveland.

"It's very touching and means the world to me. It is so symbolic of everything that has happened and the good that has come from these tragedies," said Swoveland of the gesture.

"[It's] seemingly innocuous, seemingly simple, but yet it's usually the simple things in life that mean the biggest things," added McCarthy.

Each of these families said that they plan to work with state leaders on more laws to better regulate Colorado's death industry in the years to come. 

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Tyler Cunnington

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


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