Local police in south-central Colorado discovered over 115 improperly stored bodies on Tuesday in a funeral home offering eco-friendly burials, according to police statements.
Fremont County investigative police officers alongside the Fremont County Coroner’s Office and the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies found the bodies in a Return to Nature Funeral Home building in Penrose town, per a statement by the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office.
Police searched the property in response to a report of an odor coming from the building, Fremont County coroner Randy Keller said at a Friday press conference.
Return to Nature Funeral Home’s Green Burial approach avoids using “harsh embalming chemicals, metallic, plastic or unnatural items,” according to its website.
Police said Friday they found at least 115 bodies at the Return to Nature Funeral Home in Penrose, Colorado.
The mortuary, which provides “green” burials without embalming chemicals or metal caskets, is under investigation for handling remains improperly. pic.twitter.com/Bs4IbGVjVu
— The Associated Press (@AP) October 6, 2023
Fremont County Sheriff Allen Cooper called the situation “a very disturbing discovery” at the press conference. The bodies were allegedly improperly stored across a 2,500-square-foot area in “horrific” conditions, he added. The police requested assistance from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) due to the scale of the situation. Cooper added that the FBI would make the scene safe from hazards, and investigators and emergency personnel would receive personal protective equipment before the teams would embark on the “dignified treatment of the deceased.” The remains would be removed and identified and families notified. (RELATED: Over 100 Cremated Remains, 6 Bodies Linked To Suspended Crematorium Found In Warehouse)
“We’re committed to supporting the families throughout this process with a comprehensive investigation along with our victims’ advocates,” Cooper said at the press conference.
The owner allegedly attempted to conceal the improper storage, and allegedly claimed to be doing taxidermy, the Associated Press reported. Police have not yet made any arrests.
The funeral home management is cooperating with the investigation, ABC News reported.
Keller also said that Fremont County declared a local disaster emergency.