In an unceremonious event sending shockwaves throughout the community, officials removed 189 clusters of human remains from a Colorado-based funeral home promoting sustainable “green burials.” The local law enforcement department had announced these remains were “inappropriately stored.”
The mortifying discovery was made at Return to Nature Funeral Home, located in Penrose, approximately 30 miles south of Colorado Springs. The bodies were transferred to the coroner’s office in El Paso County as shared in a collective press statement from Fremont County Sheriff Allen Cooper and Fremont County Coroner Randy Keller. The statement also conveyed that the final tally of bodies may potentially shift as identification and investigations proceed.
A laden aroma emanating from the premises prompted the intervention of the sheriff’s office, who after obtaining a search warrant, discovered over 115 bodies stored without due care — a deadly time bomb ready to explode. This initial discovery made on Friday foreboded a larger, more ‘hazardous scene,’ as described by Keller during a press conference.
The Colorado Bureau of Investigation and FBI have been looped into this evolving investigation, which law enforcement anticipates could extend across several months. As it stands, no one has been arrested, owing to ambiguous circumstances that prevent the explicit tagging of a crime, says Vikki Migoya, FBI Public Affairs Specialist.
Cooper gave an insight on the distressing scene, terming it as ‘horrific.’ Officers meticulously inspected over a 2,500-square-feet area. Keller refrained from giving further details of improper storage but highlighted the ambiguity surrounding whether these bodies were intended for burial or cremation. The coroner’s office is fully absorbed in identifying the discovered bodies and reaching out to the families of the deceased.
Speaking on the exigencies of the task, Keller admitted, “This is going to be a very, very lengthy process. With the number of decedents we have in this facility and the identification process that needs to be completed, this could take several months.”
His main concern at this stage lies in the identification of bodies and notifying the families to prevent further victimization, ensuring they receive accurate information and can continue the grieving process. A family crisis center and a dedicated phone line have been quickly set up.
Return to Nature Funeral Home advertises ‘green burials,’ devoid of embalming fluid, and provisions for biodegradable casket or no casket whatsoever. The funeral home, which also operates a facility in Colorado Springs, previously offered cremation services but discontinued them as of July 2023, as per its website.
Investigators have opened a line of communication with the funeral home owners, who are, thus far, cooperating, according to Cooper. Meanwhile, Governor Jared Polis has declared a local disaster emergency, making state resources available, as stated by Keller.