9NEWS filed to unseal Jon Hallford’s arrest affidavit in November. Thursday, a judge agreed people should be able to see details of the investigation.
PENROSE, Colo. — For months an El Paso County judge has withheld a document from the public that details the evidence and accusations against Penrose funeral home owners Jon and Carie Hallford. On Thursday evening, a judge unsealed Jon Hallford’s arrest affidavit.
The alleged crimes span a period of about three years. People paid the Hallfords to bury or cremate their loved ones, but prosecutors said the couple never did that. They said instead, the Hallfords falsified death certificates and pocketed the money. Victims are glad more details are public.
““I think it’s important for people to see, see what really happened,” said Abby Swoveland.
Her mother died last year. She paid the Hallfords to cremate her, but investigators found her mom’s body inside the Return to Nature funeral home in Penrose.
The Hallfords, according to the affidavit, spent people’s money on things like a $9,000 trip to Las Vegas, $3,400 on Tiffany’s jewelry and $8,500 on laser body sculpting.
“It’s beyond disgusting. It literally makes me sick to my stomach,” said Tanya Wilson.
Wilson’s mom died in June 2023. She said she got the cremains directly from Carie Hallford, who assured her there were no mistakes.
“She looked at him right in the eyes, smiled, and said of course this is your mother,” Tanya said.
They spread her mom’s ashes in Haiwaii, per her wishes, but in the fall law enforcement found her body inside the funeral home.
The affidavit details how law enforcement officers found 190 bodies.
Prosecutors accuse the Hallfords of 190 counts of abusing corpses. To prove that, they plan to use the Hallfords’ security camera footage. The affidavit details footage from Sept. 9, 2023, and says Jon was recorded bringing bodies inside before dawn.
“Hallford flipped the deceased body off the gurney onto the floor using a sheet that was beneath the body,” the affidavit states.
In another instance, the affidavit says Jon was paid to bury a Vietnam veteran. Law enforcement found his body, dug the grave up, and found a female’s body.
The affidavit also reignited people’s concerns about how this could have gone on for so long. It says “The FCSO (Fremont County Sheriff’s Office) had prior complaints regarding odors coming from the building, but these were not investigated because the building was a funeral home.”
It also says the coroner contacted the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies in 2020.
“I’m aware that in 2020 the Fremont County Coroner made DORA aware of suspicions about the poor treatment of human bodies and improper refrigeration at 31 Werner Rd, Penrose, Colorado. The Fremont County Coroner stated that he never received a reply from DORA,” the affidavit states.
This is what a DORA spokesperson sent 9NEWS:
“We have searched our records and have one email from Coroner Randy Keller, which was sent in May 2020. The email indicates the Coroner received phone calls regarding refrigeration issues at one of the local funeral homes in his county. He did not provide the origin of the phone calls or name the funeral home in question, and indicated that he was unaware if the concerns were justified. The email indicates that if the Office of Funeral Home and Crematory Registration was unable to provide an inspection that he would perform one. Mr. Keller did not provide results of an inspection, or any follow up related to the phone calls he received. We were unable to find any additional communication from Mr. Keller. Our office reached out to Mr. Keller on October 13, 2023 to offer our support and inquire about any assistance we could provide his office. It was at that point that Mr. Keller informed us that his email in 2020 was in reference to Return to Nature. The email is now being held as part of the investigation.
The Office of Funeral Home and Crematory Inspections did not have authority to inspect at the time of this email. Inspection authority was granted during the 2022 Legislative Session via HB22-1073. This bill became law on August 9, 2022.”
Swoveland wants the details to be public to raise more awareness about the lack of regulations Colorado has for funeral service professionals. Lawmakers plan to propose a bill that would require people in the industry to be licensed.
“This can’t just go away with the criminal charges, we’ve got to have big change made to Colorado law”, she said.
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