NewsCovering Colorado


Judge reduces bond for funeral home owner accused of improperly storing 190 bodies

Posted at 2:51 PM, Jan 04, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-05 02:04:26-05

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — A judge ordered a bond reduction for Jon Hallford, one of the owners of the Return to Nature funeral home, during a court hearing Thursday afternoon.

He and his wife, Carie Hallford, are accused of improperly storing 190 bodies inside the funeral home in Penrose. On Thursday a judge ordered Jon Hallford's bond to be reduced from $2 million cash only to a $100,000 cash surety bond.

Judge William Moller said he made the decision to lower the bond in response to the defense's motion after considering multiple factors.

The judge said he did not believe Hallford would be a threat to public safety if released and he has no previous criminal history. He said the $100,000 bond is still ten times the amount suggested by guidelines set by the court based on the severity of the charges.

The prosecution argued Hallford was a flight risk and the judge should not lower his bond. A prosecuting attorney said Hallford dumped his phone and fled to a Native American reservation in Oklahoma after the investigation was launched into the funeral home. The prosecution claimed he went there because he believed he could not be arrested on the reservation land.

The prosecution also brought up unreleased details in the case, including text messages they allege showed Hallford's knowledge of wrongdoing. The attorney said Hallford sent a text on May 5, 2020 that read "I don't give a f*** about this family. I'll give a f*** about what's happening in Penrose and not going to prison and getting the f*** out of this community. My one and only focus is keeping us out of jail." The prosecution did not specify who the text was sent to.

Judge Moller said without context he could not consider the texts in his ruling. He said Hallford will be required to wear a GPS ankle monitor if released which aims to address the prosecution's claims he is a flight risk. The judge also ordered Hallford to surrender his passport, check in with the court three times a week, abstain from alcohol and other controlled substances, and stay away from anyone considered a victim in the case.

Hallford's attorney said it will take some time to gather the bond money, and they do not anticipate that Hallford will be released Thursday. Hallford was originally scheduled for a preliminary hearing on Thursday, but that has been postponed to Thursday, Feb. 8 at 1:30 p.m.

The other funeral home owner, Carie Hallford, is scheduled to have a preliminary hearing next Thursday, Jan. 11 at 1:30 p.m. Her bond is still currently $2 million cash only. The 4th Judicial District Attorney's Office told News5 it is possible a judge could discuss her bond during that hearing.

Abby Swoveland, whose mother was identified as one of the 190 bodies inside the funeral home, was at the court hearing on Thursday. She said the decision to lower Hallford's bond was shocking and said she would not be surprised if Carie Hallford's bond is lowered next week.

“There’s no way to quantify the amount of people that have been traumatized and damaged by the Hallfords. And now they’re allowed to walk amongst us and they don’t deserve that," said Swoveland.

Angelika Stedman lost her daughter to suicide and used Return to Nature after her death. Stedman said her daughter's body was also identified inside the Penrose funeral home. She said she does not trust Hallford if he were to be released from jail.

“I watched him through some of this stuff, just looking at him and there was absolutely no emotion there. None," she said.

Jon and Carie Hallford first appeared in court last month, with many loved ones of victims in attendance.


Loved ones attend court as funeral home owners make first appearance

The funeral home was the center of an investigation after investigators said 190 bodies were found improperly stored. The two were arrested in Oklahoma earlier this month.

Return to Nature funeral home came under a multi-agency investigation in October following reports of a complaint about a foul odor in the area. Investigators said they found more than 150 bodies in various states of decomposition inside the building that were not properly stored.

In what was a multi-agency clean-up effort, coroner offices and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation worked tirelessly for a couple of weeks to remove the bodies from the building before the identification process could begin.

It was not until early November that the owners of the Return to Nature Funeral Home were arrested in Oklahoma. Jon and Carie Hallford were moved to El Paso County by late November where both appeared in court and had cash bonds set at $2 million. The Hallfords are facing hundreds of criminal charges for abuse of a corpse, fraud, and money laundering.

Following their arrests, News5's Eleanor Sheahan spoke with families who were victims of the funeral home.


Victims of Return to Nature share what owner's arrests mean to them

If you have been impacted by the Return to Nature Funeral Home, the FBI has recommended grief counseling.


Grief counseling available after Return to Nature Funeral Home incident


Coroner: Some remains in Return to Nature Funeral Home investigation were 'several years old'

Investigation into 115 bodies continues at Return to Nature Funeral Home in Penrose

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

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