UPDATE: THURSDAY 10/5/2023 3:09 p.m.

(FREMONT COUNTY, Colo.) — The Fremont County Sheriff’s Office (FCSO) said a funeral home is under investigation after a search warrant revealed “improperly stored” human remains.

FCSO said in a press release that deputies originally responded on the evening of Oct. 3 to 31 Werner Road in Penrose on a “suspicious incident.” When deputies arrived, they learned that the building was owned by the Return to Nature Funeral Home based in Colorado Springs.

On Oct. 4, FCSO investigators, the Fremont County Coroner’s Office, and the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies executed a search warrant on the property and determined that human remains were improperly stored inside the building.

  • Funeral home investigation in Fremont County
  • Law enforcement and crime tape outside Return to Nature Funeral Home in Penrose on Thursday, Oct. 5, 2023.
  • Funeral home investigation in Fremont County
  • Funeral home investigation in Fremont County

Neighbors in the area say the odor of decomposition has been in the air for weeks now.

“It smells like death. It doesn’t quite smell like roadkill, but it definitely smells of death. Like sewage,” said Kimberly Bowden, who works nearby.

Return to Nature’s website says they offer green and natural burial services. They promise “no embalming fluid, no concrete vaults, as natural as possible.” Joyce Pavetti has lived across the street for 13 years and has barely seen any activity.

“My husband noticed one funeral they had… And after that, we never noticed anything,” said Pavetti.

Until one morning when a black hearse showed up, “Those cars showed up about one month ago,” said Bowden.

The hearse currently sits in the back of the building. Many of the doors and windows are now busted in.

FCSO is asking any family members of decedents who utilized the Return to Nature Funeral Home to send an email to 23-1941@fremontso.com. The Sheriff’s Office asks that you leave the best contact number and time to be contacted in this email, and FCSO will respond to each email.

If you do not use email, you can contact the Fremont Emergency Management call line at (719)-276-7421. They will have victims’ assistance personnel responding to messages beginning Oct. 6, between the hours of 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. FCSO said they would also have victims’ assistance personnel available at 1901 East Main in Cañon City between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. This phone and email assistance center is for families only.

Anyone with potential information pertaining to the criminal investigation are encouraged to contact tips@fremontso.com. The investigation is active and ongoing, FCSO said.

A press conference will be held at FCSO on Friday, Oct. 6 at 10 a.m.

FOX21 News will be in attendance at the press conference and will provide updates to this story as information becomes available.

ORIGINAL STORY: Funeral home investigation in Fremont County

THURSDAY 10/5/2023 10:13 a.m.

Right now an investigation is underway at a funeral home in Fremont County after a large law enforcement presence was seen outside of the Return to Nature Funeral Home in Penrose on Wednesday night, Oct. 4.

The funeral home is located off Werner Road and Highway 115, and according to the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office, it was meeting with law enforcement partners to determine jurisdiction and who would be the lead investigative agency for the incident as of 9 a.m. on Thursday, Oct. 5.

“A formal press release and/or possible news conference will be scheduled for later today,” wrote the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office in an email sent to FOX21 News on Thursday.  

FOX21 News has a crew on the way to the scene and will update this article as we learn more.