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At least 115 improperly stored bodies discovered at Colorado funeral home, Fremont County Sheriff says it was "horrific"

At least 115 improperly stored bodies discovered at Return to Nature Funeral Home: "Horrific"
At least 115 improperly stored bodies discovered at Return to Nature Funeral Home: "Horrific" 03:12

An investigation into the Return to Nature Funeral Home in Penrose in southern Colorado began on Wednesday after a report of an odor. When investigators with the Fremont County Sheriff's Office gained entry to the business, they discovered more than 115 bodies improperly stored there. 

Law enforcement, including the FBI, were investigating the site of a funeral home in Fremont County.  CBS

At that time, the sheriff requested assistance from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. 

"There have been a lot of questions and concerns expressed by the community, especially those families who entrusted their loved ones to this funeral home. Our priority and our focus is on the families," said Fremont County Sheriff Allen Cooper during a news conference on Friday morning. "We are committed to finding answers for the families as quickly as possible."

Cooper said that the area searched in the funeral home, located at 31 Werner Road, is over 2,500 square feet.

"Without providing too much detail to avoid further victimizing these families, the air of the funeral home where the bodies were stored was horrific," said Cooper.

Authorities in Fremont County discuss investigation into funeral home 11:54

Fremont County Coroner Randy Keller said that a local disaster emergency has been declared due to the circumstances surrounding the investigation. He said it is going to be a "very, very, lengthy process" possibly lasting several months and that forensic identification, including fingerprints and DNA, will be conducted to notify those families as quickly as possible. 

"The loved ones in this facility will be treated with the utmost care and respect," said Keller. "Our hearts go out to everyone impacted by this tragedy and we will work to get those families the answers they deserve."


The sheriff said there have been no arrests as of Friday and that the focus of the investigation right now will be on the deceased and their families. Cooper said that investigators have been in contact with the owners of the funeral home and they are being cooperative "so far." 

Keller didn't discuss details of the scene where the various remains were found and said it was too early to determine if the remains found were designated for cremation or burial.

"It is a very tragic situation and there are a lot of decedents there and I don't really want to go into the scene out of respect for the families," said Keller.

RELATED: Colorado hasn't licensed funeral practitioners since 1983. Now some want change.

The FBI said additional field response teams will be dispatched to Penrose along with specialized laboratory teams from Quantico, Virginia. 

"This will include our technical hazardous response team and our disaster recovery team. These are teams with additional training and specialized equipment that serve to process scenes of national magnitude, to include the response to 9/11 and major airline incidents, so they will be coming in the next few days," said FBI Special Agent in Charge Denver field office Mark Michalek. 

Additional Information from the Fremont County Sheriff's Office: 

The Fremont County Sheriff's Office is asking that family members of decedents who utilized the Return to Nature Funeral Home please send an email to  Please leave the best contact number and time to call in this email.  We will respond to each email. If you do not use email, then you can contact the Fremont Emergency Management call line at (719)-276-7421.  We will have victims' assistance personnel responding to messages beginning October 6, 2023, between the hours of 8 am and 6 pm.  We will also have victim assistance personnel available at 1901 East Main, Canon City CO, between 10 am and 6 pm.  This phone and email assistance center are for families only.  Media inquiries will not be responded to. Individuals with potential information in reference to the criminal investigation are encouraged to email  at

Families speak out on funeral home accused of improperly storing bodies 02:52
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