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115 improperly stored human remains found in Colorado funeral home, sheriff says


By Mitchell McCluskey, CNN

(CNN) — An investigation into more than 115 bodies found “improperly stored” in a Colorado funeral home offering “green burials” could take months, officials say.

The remains were found in the Return to Nature Funeral Home in Penrose, about 30 miles south of Colorado Springs.

“This is going to be a very, very lengthy process,” Fremont County Coroner Randy Keller said at a news conference Friday. “With the number of decedents we have in this facility and the identification process that needs to be completed, this could take several months.”

No arrests have been made. The Colorado Bureau of Investigation and the FBI are assisting the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office with the investigation.

“It is not clear if a crime has been committed,” FBI Public Affairs Specialist Vikki Migoya said.

The coroner’s office was contacted by the Fremont County sheriff on a report of an odor coming from the funeral home, Keller said.

After receiving a warrant, they searched the building to find the bodies “improperly stored,” which has created a “hazardous scene” Keller said.

Fremont County Sheriff Allen Cooper described the scene as “horrific.” Authorities searched an area of more than 2,500 square feet, he said.

Keller declined to go into further detail on how the bodies had been stored. Keller said it is not yet clear whether the bodies had been intended for burial or cremation.

Funeral home offers ‘green’ burials

According to Return to Nature Funeral Home’s website, the funeral home offers “green burials” without embalming fluid in a biodegradable casket or “nothing at all.” The company also operates a facility in Colorado Springs, according to the website. The funeral home previously offered cremation services but stopped in July 2023, the website states.

CNN has reached out to the Return to Nature Funeral Home for comment.

After the scene is determined to be safe and personal protective equipment is provided, authorities will begin retrieving the bodies. The scene will be kept out of public view with tents or fencing, Cooper said.

Families will be notified as soon as a body is identified, Keller said. A family crisis center and phone line have also been established.

Investigators have made contact with the owners of the funeral home, and they are cooperating so far, Cooper said.

Gov. Jared Polis issued a local disaster emergency, which makes state resources available, Keller said.

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