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'I want to help,' one women encourages Return to Nature Funeral Home victims, to reach out to her for support

Posted at 10:03 PM, Oct 27, 2023
and last updated 2023-10-30 07:35:50-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — One woman in Colorado Springs is offering support to families victimized by the Return To Nature Funeral Home investigation.

This past week Danielle McCarthy has been in contact with a few families impacted by the Return to Nature Funeral Home investigation. She wants to use her past experience with mistreatment at another Colorado funeral home to help the victims' families from the Penrose incident.

"Through Facebook and through other channels, if there are victims out there, I want to talk with them, they are not alone, someone understands this," McCarthy said.

McCarthy said she relates what they are going through and she wants to help them through this difficult situation. She has been texting a few families and plans on hopefully chatting with them over Zoom or meeting up with them, in order to provide them with support, listen to them, and offer advice, if they ask.

"To say you will get through it, you will, but in the meantime, I'll sit in the darkness with you until you can see light again," McCarthy said.

McCarthy said it is important for people who are involved in the funeral home investigation to take care of themselves and reach out for help.

"Just give yourself grace, all the emotions are going to come, seek help and seek guidance," McCarthy said.

When McCarthy heard about the incident at The Return to Nature Funeral Home, she was disappointed.

"Just disbelief, not only 115, but 189 families are going through this," McCarthy said.

McCarthy can relate to victims of the Penrose investigation because her husband was a victim of the Sunset Mesa Funeral Home investigation in Montrose, Colorado. In 2017, her husband's body was a part of a body brokering investigation.

The owners of the Sunset Mesa Funeral Home sold parts of her husband's body to a medical company. They gave McCarthy’s family and hundreds of other people, ashes that were not their loved ones.

“My experience with the Sunset Mesa Funeral Home was good, up until it wasn't,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy said she was referred to the Sunset Mesa funeral home by a friend. She first contacted Sunset Mesa after her husband of 25 years passed away on Father’s Day in 2017. McCarthy married her husband, David McCarthy before they graduated from high school in Colorado Springs.

When the owner of the funeral home gave McCarthy, David's ashes, she felt something was wrong. She was confused as to why the funeral home had given her such a small box, claiming her husband's ashes were in it.

“I just kept going, this does not feel like David, this is not right,” McCarthy said.

The size of the box was concerning to her, but she was grieving and never thought something like this would happen.

“Very concerning but I could not tell you why, it just felt like this is not right,” McCarthy said.

Not even a year after her husband's death, McCarthy got a phone call from the FBI.

“What in the actual world did I just listen to on the phone, stunned and numb, past the point of numb,” McCarthy said.

The FBI informed McCarthy about an investigation into Sunset Mesa Funeral Home and her husband could be a victim. McCarthy said Sunset Mesa sold her husband's body and nearly hundreds others to medical companies across the nation.

“800 bodies dismembered, sold to the end of the earth, plastinated, no paperwork, no documentation of where they went,” McCarthy said.

One of those bodies was her husband David. The ashes the owners had given her were not actually her husband's remains.

Danielle and David McCarthy had four boys together. Danielle said all her children had to give DNA samples to the FBI.

“It is not an easy conversation to have with your kids, not an easy talk, they were young at the time,” McCarthy said.

Looking back McCarthy is proud of how her sons handled the situation.

“They just stepped up and said where and when we will make it happen, its dad,” McCarthy said.

After a month and a half, the FBI informed the McCarthy’s that some of David’s body parts had been found. McCarthy thought this time she would finally get closure or at least be about to start mourning him properly.

“So I can get him back right? No they have to hold on to all evidence,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy said because the FBI was still investigating the situation, McCarthy could not have her husband's body parts cremated until the trial and legal process was finished.

“Five years my husband sat in an FBI refrigeration unit,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy said in a way she understood why law enforcement had to keep his body, but this waiting left her with many emotions.

“I did not know what else to do because I was frustrated, exhausted mentally emotionally and physically, waiting for my husband to come home and knowing he was not at rest,” McCarthy said.

She was finally given her husband's remains in March of this year. Now after all this time, nearly six years, McCarthy can lay her husband to rest.

“In two weeks for his birthday, November 10th, he will be lovingly placed and remembered in Fort Logan National Cemetery. It has been a long time coming and it is about damn time,” McCarthy said.

This entire situation that has been unfolding for over six years for McCarthy has affected her grieving process and changed her life.

“That violation that we felt as Sunset Mesa victims, I'm sure the Penrose victims are feeling as well, is a trust of humanity and it's gone,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy said one of the ways it has impacted her is, not being able to trust funeral homes and people.

“I don't know that there's ever going to be closure for this because I don't trust basic parts of humanity anymore. Because now I again, questioning everything,” McCarthy said. This can't be undone. There's no way to make this better. The nightmares are still going to be a thing,” McCarthy said.

These feelings and challenges are why McCarthy wants people who are also feeling this way to contact her.

She is also calling for change. With the incident in Montrose, another one in Leadville and now Penrose, she said something in the Colorado funeral home industry needs to be done, so this does not keep happening.

She has been in contact with lawmakers and is motivated to bring change so more families and friends in Colorado are not traumatized by the actions of funeral homes.

McCarthy encourages people to reach out to her.

"Myself and other members of the Sunset mesa victims are here to listen,” McCarthy said.

She said people can message her on Facebook or text her, (719)-922-2527.

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