A funeral home operator is under investigation for improper storage of human remains inside one of its properties after more than 100 rotting bodies were found, authorities said on Thursday.
Deputies from the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office in the US state of Colorado responded to reports of a “suspicious incident” on Tuesday night at the Return to Nature Funeral Home in Penrose – just southwest of Colorado Springs.
Authorities executed a search warrant the next day on the property and discovered more than 100 “improperly stored” bodies inside the building, the sheriff’s office said in a press release.
The Colorado Springs Police Department and sheriff’s office are working with several state and federal agencies in the open investigation.
Joyce Pavetti, 73, who lives near the funeral home, told local 11 News that they’ve noticed a strange smell coming from the building: “My husband has noticed it the past couple weeks. Every now and then the wind comes from that way, he has been smelling it.”
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The family-owned Return to Nature Funeral Home performs what they describe as “green” or “natural” burials without embalming chemicals or metal caskets.
Under Colorado law, green burials are legal, but state code requires that any body not buried within 24 hours must be properly refrigerated.
Police are asking family members of those buried in the funeral home and those who have any potential information related to the investigation to contact authorities.
The Colorado Bureau of Investigation told USA Today that the agency does not have any further information.
Another neighbor who lives nearby told 11 News he’s only seen about three funerals there over multiple years.
Law enforcement said the property is a single-story building with a parking lot surrounded by overgrown weeds.
James Glidewell, who works on a property behind the funeral home, told The Colorado Springs Gazette: “I’d randomly smell it, but I didn’t think anything of it. I thought it was just roadkill or something like that.
“Every time you’d drive by here, you’d smell it.”
He added that the funeral home appeared to be vacant for a while until two vehicles were seen parked on the property in June.
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