Another Funeral Home Body Scandal – HotAir

This is a problem that has cropped up often enough that further government investigation should be considered. In Colorado last October, neighbors of the Return to Nature Funeral Home called the police and reported a foul odor coming from the facility on a regular basis. An investigation quickly revealed the gruesome cause. The couple operating the funeral home had failed to properly inter or cremate hundreds of deceased people, instead stacking many bodies up like cordwood at room temperature in a dilapidated building. The people were literally left there to rot. This week, a judge ruled that the husband and wife who own the facility, Carie and Jon Hallford, can go to trial where they will face hundreds of counts of crimes against them. The couple had reportedly been in severe financial trouble and had not kept up with their bills. (Associated Press)

Two Colorado funeral home owners apparently sought to cover up their financial difficulties by abandoning nearly 200 bodies that they had agreed to cremate or bury, instead storing the remains in a neglected building in many cases for years, a Colorado judge said Wednesday as he ruled that the criminal case against one of the defendants can go to trial.

Judge William Moller cited evidence from prosecutors in deciding that Return to Nature Funeral Home co-owner Carie Hallford can face trial on 260 counts of corpse abuse, money laundering, forgery and theft.

At the request of her attorney, the judge also sharply reduced Hallford’s bond, from $2 million to $100,000, increasing the chances that she can get out of jail while the trial is pending.

One crematorium that the Hallfords previously did business with had terminated their contract with them over a failure to pay their bills. Other bills, including utilities, also went unpaid, as did some of the Hallfords’ taxes. But they still kept accepting new clients and the bodies of their loved ones, knowing they had no way to properly put them to rest. Police say the Hallfords discussed “novel” ways of disposing of the bodies including putting them in vats of lye or even digging a trench and burning them. But in the end, they simply left them stacked up in the building. I won’t embed it here, but you can see some “deeply disturbing” video of the police removing the remains on the local ABC News website.

You might be wondering how they could get away with this for so long. (Some of the remains dated back to 2019.) Wouldn’t families notice if they didn’t have a body in a casket for the funeral or didn’t receive their loved one’s ashes? As it turns out, the majority of the victims were scheduled for cremation and the funeral home gave them concrete powder instead of actual cremains. That sounds like a straight-up case of fraud.

Unfortunately, this situation is not unique and we’ve seen even worse stories before. Another funeral home (also in Colorado for some reason) was found to have been selling body parts to medical schools in large numbers last year after telling families that the dearly departed had been cremated. They too gave out fake cremains to the families. The mother and daughter operating that funeral home were sentenced to 15 and 20 years in prison respectively. Another funeral home in Dallas was charged with similarly mishandling corpses in 2021.

I’m generally one of the last people to call for additional government regulations in the private sector, but this situation seems to be getting out of hand and the crimes involved are particularly gruesome. In too many cases, the perpetrators wind up getting off with comparatively light sentences. That’s because abuse of a corpse is not classified as a violent crime in most states, and if the operators have no previous criminal record, judges often go easy on them. But it just seems as if each state should have some sort of required inspection schedule so these facilities can be checked on regularly. A situation like the one in Colorado should not have been allowed to fester for almost five years and even then only come to light because of reports of a foul stench emanating from the facility. The affected families should also be eligible for greater compensation. It’s hard enough to lose a loved one. Finding out the “remains” you were given were actually cement powder only adds insult to injury.

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