In Colorado, a couple of funeral home owners are on trial for storing 190 bodies of the dead in horrible conditions and lying to relatives about cremation.
The defendants are John Holford and his wife, Keri Holford, who own Return to Nature Funeral Home in Colorado Springs, the Associated Press reported.
The couple promised to cremate nearly 200 bodies, but instead simply left them to rot in a building in the nearby rural community of Penrose.
The money paid for “cremation and burial” was spent by the Holfords on cars, cryptocurrency, lavish dinners in Las Vegas and other expensive things for themselves.
Now the couple appeared in court for abuse of the bodies of the dead, theft and forgery of documents.
|John and Carey Holford. Collage: kfor.com
FBI agents found 190 half-decomposed bodies last October. The building with the abandoned corpses was swarming with maggots and flies.
According to FBI agent Andrew Cohen, the building had improvised refrigeration units that were no longer working, and the floor was covered with corpse fluid. The half-covered remains of adults and infants were piled up.
It turned out that some bodies were stored there for about 4 years. In particular, at least 23 people died in 2019. Probably, relatives were given fake ashes.
“Law enforcement officers now know that the ashes each family received could not have belonged to their loved one.” – say the police.
Several families who hired Return to Nature to cremate their relatives confirmed that the remains of their loved ones were found among the recovered bodies.
Law enforcement officers handed over most of the remains to the families of the dead, but 22 bodies still remain unidentified.
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The owner couple was arrested in Oklahoma in November 2023 as a fugitive from justice. They were jailed and bail was set at $2 million.
The hearing in the case of Carey Holford was held last month, and John was due to hear the charges on February 8.
Prosecutors have provided the court with correspondence from the couple that proves they tried to hide their financial difficulties. The couple also discussed how to hide the bodies, because John Holford was still afraid that he would be caught in 2020.
The man suggested getting rid of the bodies by throwing them into a large pit and then treating them with alkali or burning them.
The Holfords are now on trial on 190 counts of embezzlement, 5 counts of theft, 4 counts of money laundering, and more than 50 counts of forgery. None of the defendants has yet pleaded guilty.
Colorado is the only state that does not control the activities of funeral homes, writes CBS. The horrific precedent of Return to Nature has renewed the debate about the need to license such facilities.
In total, American regulators received more than 60 complaints about the activities of funeral homes and crematoria last year.
Read also: She dismembered 560 corpses: in Colorado, the owner of a funeral parlor was sentenced for illegal sale of bodies