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Second Colorado funeral home owner released on bond, EPA apologizes for demolition delay

EPA delays demolition of Return to Nature Funeral Home in Penrose
EPA delays demolition of Return to Nature Funeral Home in Penrose 00:28

The second of two owners of a Colorado funeral home where officials say 190 bodies were improperly stored was released from the El Paso County Jail on Tuesday on a $100,000 bond.

Carie Hallford and her husband Jon own Return to Nature Funeral Home in Penrose. They've been charged with 190 counts of abuse of a corpse and 70 other charges including theft, forgery and money laundering -- all felonies. Jon Hallford was released on bond in late January after a judge lowered his bond from $2 million to $100,000. The couple were arrested in Oklahoma in November.

The investigation into the funeral home began in early October 2023 when neighbors reported a foul smell to law enforcement. As of early February, 22 bodies remained unidentified.

Also on Tuesday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency again said it was experiencing delays in its ability to demolish the site due to challenges with locating suitable landfill facilities for the building materials.

The agency said it, along with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and Fremont County were waiting on a "minor modification" to paperwork with an area landfill, something it says is required to move forward.

"We regret this unfortunate delay and stand ready to initiate the demolition as soon as possible," the EPA said in a statement. "We will continue to work diligently together to move forward and are committed to initiating demolition and removal of the building once landfill access is secured."

It's at least the second delay in as many months; the first one was due to weather, the EPA said at the time.

Family members of people whose remains have been identified at Return to Nature have called for accountability and changes ranging from increased regulation on the funeral home industry to criminal prosecution -- which is ongoing -- to the destruction of the site.

"EPA understands the stress and impatience among those in the community seeking closure on this tragedy," the EPA said. "We recognize the importance of transparency and will continue to keep the public informed about next steps and new timeframes."

There is no current health risk to the public based on the safety measures in place for demolition, transport and disposal, according to the EPA.

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