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‘One step closer to justice,' victims' families of the Return to Nature funeral home react to owners arrest

Return to Nature Funeral Home
Posted at 7:38 PM, Nov 08, 2023

PENROSE — The owners of the Return to Nature Funeral Home in Penrose were arrested on Wednesday morning. According to law enforcement, Jon and Carie Hallford are now behind bars following an arrest in Oklahoma.

In a press conference on Wednesday, the Fremont County Coroner confirmed the number of bodies removed from the funeral home is 190. The Fremont County Sheriff, members of the Colorado Bureau of Investigations, and the 4th Judicial District Attorney said their top priorities are to help families who used the return to Nature Funeral Home, to reconnect with their loved one's remains, and to ensure their voices are heard throughout the investigation.

Jon and Carie Hallford
Jon and Carie Hallford are facing multiple felony charges related to Return to Nature Funeral Home.

News 5 spoke with two families whose loved ones' remains were found inside the funeral home. They said the arrest is one step closer to getting justice.

They aren't the only ones...this week, a few signs, demanding the owners be held accountable, were placed on the fence surrounding the funeral home in Penrose.

“I'm just thankful they have finally been arrested, I am thankful we are starting to see the start of justice,” Simons said.

Mary Simons lost her husband in August. She contacted The Return To Nature Funeral Home to cremate him, but that never happened. Instead, investigators identified Mary's husband, Darrell Simons, as one of the 190 bodies improperly stored.

“It makes it more real that he is gone now. It is a matter of working through the closure. I've got that confirmation that he's really gone now. As hard as it is, it helps being able to move forward. Because I know where he is and I know he's gone,” Simons said.

Law enforcement said 25 out of the 190 bodies improperly stored inside the funeral home have been returned to their families, Mary is one of them.

“I can't explain how lucky I feel to be able to have my husband back, but at the same point, my heart's still broken for those that are still waiting. I know how hard that is. I know what it's like to wake up every day hoping that you'll get that phone call hoping that you'll find out where your loved one is,” Simons said.

Simons said Darrell's wishes were for him to be cremated and for her to spread his ashes. Simons contacted Holt Family Funeral Home in Canon City. She said they treated her family with the utmost respect and helped properly cremate her husband.

On October 31st, on Mary’s and Darrell's wedding anniversary, Mary Simons received her husband's ashes.

“That was exciting for me. It was the start of the closure, that he is home, we found him and he's home. That's kind of like a miracle for me to have him here finally,” Simons said.

Simons said the day she was able to hold her husband's ashes for the first time was very emotional for her, but it is a day she will always remember.

“Like he had to be back for his anniversary, he had to be here. It felt a lot better. It felt more complete. It's where he was supposed to be,” Simons said.

Press conference following the arrests of Return to Nature funeral home owners

At Wednesday's press conference law enforcement said their goal is to help families through this difficult time. One of those families is the Page's.

“The most horrendous feeling I've ever had in my life. My son died in September of 2019. So it's been 4 years,” Page said.

Crystina Page was at the press conference. Like Simons, her loved one was a victim of the Return to Nature funeral home. Page said she used the funeral home for its cremation services.

Four years ago she received an urn full of ashes. She said it was not until this investigation started that she found out the ashes she had were not her sons.

“For four years I've been all over this country with this urn believing it to be my son,” Page said.

Now Page wants justice for her son, David Jaxon Page, and other people impacted by Return to Nature Funeral Home.

“I think the arrest that was going to help our families have a little bit of closure through this and know that we're going forward and that there is it makes it feel like there might be an end in sight,” Page said.

Page said arresting the owner was just the first step in getting justice.

“I know that they were speaking about the potential for probation. I think that's absolutely absurd. I would like to see them get consecutive sentences as you know, whichever way they go but ideally, I would like to see them locked up and never be able to do this to another family,” Page said.

This is a feeling Page shares with Simons.

“Yes, I want to see them in prison. I want to see them in prison for a long time,” Simons said.

Until then, Simons carries her husband with her, in a necklace, close to her heart.

“It helps bring me strength,” Simons said.

Simons said she would like to see the funeral home building in Penrose torn down. She said it is traumatic for her to drive and know her husband's body was mistreated inside. Simons said she would like to see a memorial park be built there to honor the victims and their families.

The El Paso County District Court will work on the extradition process to Fremont County for Jon and Carie Hallford to face charges.

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