Horrific Details About The Almost 200 Bodies Left To Rot By A Colorado Couple

Just in case you forgot that certain, very actual people could descend to unbelievable depths of bizarre and horrid depravity, one Colorado couple is here to help. The couple in question, Jon and Carie Hallford, created a quaint-sounding funeral business, Return to Nature, back in 2016. The premise of the business fit the name: bio-friendly internment and cremation for deceased loved ones. So far, so good. 

Unfortunately, the Hallford's didn't quite live up to their end of charging $1,895 per deceased. Rather, they didn't do anything with the bodies they collected. They just took money for their supposed services and left the deceased at their business address in Penrose, Colorado, 30 miles south of Colorado Springs. In some cases, they even sent "bags of mixed concrete" to family members and pretended that it was ash, as the New York Post says.

If this already sounds beyond belief, it gets worse. The Hallfords didn't just let the dead pile up inside their business' building, they used their business money to do things like take trips, purchase cryptocurrency, and buy cars and luxury goods. In total, they collected 189 once-breathing relatives and friends and not only left them unattended, but "improperly stored" their bodies in "horrific" conditions, as NPR quotes. Specifically, the Colorado Judicial Branch's official affidavit for the case says (deep breath, folks) that the bodies of the dead produced fluids that "covered the floors within the building. Maggots, flies, and other insects in various stages of life were vastly present within the building." Believe it or not, further details are even more disturbing.

An incomprehensible act

Speaking ill of the living is one thing, and committing crimes against the living is another. This current case stands out, though, precisely because desecration of the dead is so abominable, and universally sacrilegious across time and culture. How Jon and Carie Hallford came up with their scheme, and then executed each and every step of it all the way to things like Gucci spending binges and a $90,000 Yukon SUV remains impossible to understand. Perhaps it's a mystery we shouldn't try and pierce.

Even if the Hallfords didn't precisely map out every point in their plot, something was very clearly up from the beginning. In 2020, only three years after opening Return to Nature for business, the couple had a lawsuit against them dismissed. Two years later in 2022, the funeral home's license expired. The next year saw multiple lawsuits brought up against the Hallfords, and by mid-2023 all cremations there ceased. By October 6 that year authorities had launched an investigation into the couple because a "foul odor" had been reported coming from their business' Penrose address, as sites like Ramos Law explain.  

Within a couple of weeks investigators stumbled into what could be called one of the most distressing, repulsive, and incomprehensibly ghastly environments imaginable — and no, we're not exaggerating in the slightest. The Colorado Judicial Branch's affidavit describes the scene in shocking terms, including how cleanup personnel "experienced physical and emotional duress" because of the case. They even found infants mixed in with the 189 total individuals found on site. 

Overflowing with decomposition fluid

Out of respect for the dead and their loved ones we hesitate to go in depth into every single lurid detail about Jon and Carie Hallford's crimes. But, some degree of detail is necessary to accurately portray the repulsive of both the crime site and the Hallford's actions to the public. That being said, those with certain sensitives might want to take care before treading forward. 

As the Colorado Judicial Branch's affidavit says, the smell of decomposition was the first clue regarding what awaited inside Return to Nature's Penrose location. When authorities arrived at the property, they spotted a "dark stain" spreading out from the front door and seeping into nearby concrete. Those familiar with such cases agreed that the stain was consistent with fluids produced during human decomposition. Those fluids, it turns out, had spilled out of ruptured plastic bags used to house the bodies inside. These bags, and the bodies inside, were stacked so high in certain areas that authorities couldn't access every room at first. Orange and red plastic buckets from Home Depot and Harbor Freight had been in certain spots to collect the fluid, but either spilled over or didn't catch any to begin with.

The interior held three refrigerators, although none of them were operational and one of them appeared makeshift. There were working, window-mounted air conditioning units inside, but doors were left open and the interior temperature was about 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Investigators also found Febreze on the property, Arm and Hammer baking soda, and Raid bug bombs. 

Scheduled for demolition

As if all of above wasn't repulsive enough, the Colorado Judicial Branch's affidavit found evidence on site of slipshod "water cremation" along with a bone grinder and bags of concrete mixer in a room dubbed "Room A." Water cremation, the affidavit explains, is a liquid chemical process that dissolves a body in four to six hours and creates a "fatty waste product," but does not dissolve bones. While we mentioned bodies wrapped in bags, some bodies weren't covered at all and were just laying out in the open. And of course, we already mentioned the creepy saturated insect infestation on the premises. 

The affidavit also contains a map of the building, complete with 10 rooms and connecting hallways. Authorities found bodies in every single room except for a "utility room." Personal items were scattered around, as well, likely given to Jon and Carie Hallford to be buried with loved ones. All in all, the decay and decomposition at the scene was so abhorrent and grotesque that it presented a "slip hazard" for those present. Extraction of the remains required special, protective suits for cleanup crew working in "unimaginable conditions" that will assumedly scar them for life. The Environmental Protection Agency scheduled the building for demolition on January 24, 2024, but as of February 27 the agency reported demolition was stalled due to "pending logistical issues regarding landfill access."

On November 8, 2023, the Hallfords were arrested in Oklahoma. In addition to their crimes against the dead, they were charged with theft, money laundering, and forgery. Investigations are ongoing, but they are currently facing over 250 felony charges.