Colorado Legislators Propose Funeral Home Regulation Bill Following Discovery of 190 Decaying Bodies

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Following two disturbing cases of funeral home owners mishandling bodies and cremated remains, Colorado lawmakers took action on Wednesday to strengthen the state’s regulations that were unable to prevent these tragic incidents.

A bipartisan House committee unanimously voted in a hearing to introduce a bill that aims to align Colorado’s regulations with those of nearly all other states by mandating routine inspections of funeral homes, even after a home’s registration has expired.

It would also provide the agency responsible for overseeing the industry with increased enforcement authority. The recent legislative action follows closely on the heels of an arrest warrant issued for a former funeral home owner in Denver.

Authorities revealed that the individual had abandoned a woman’s body in a hearse for two years and had accumulated the cremated remains of at least 30 individuals.

Following the discovery of almost 200 decomposed bodies at another Colorado funeral home last year, this case emerged.

According to reports, the owners are accused of sending counterfeit ashes to families in mourning and are facing charges related to mistreating bodies.

“The current legislative and regulatory framework has failed individuals in Colorado,” Patty Salazar stated during the hearing.

Salazar oversees funeral homes as the executive director of the Department of Regulatory Agencies or DORA. “There is a widespread recognition that changes are necessary and Colorado must improve.”

The upcoming bill is set to be officially presented in the following weeks and will likely be accompanied by another proposal that aims to enforce more stringent qualification standards for individuals operating funeral homes.

Joe Walsh, president of the Colorado Funeral Directors Association, expressed strong support for both proposals.

Colorado Funeral Industry Urgently Addresses Misconduct and Inspection Gaps

BOULDER, CO – MARCH 24: Law enforcement vehicles escort the body of slain Boulder Police officer Eric Talley to a funeral home on March 24, 2021 in Boulder, Colorado.


Our industry is facing significant challenges. “Going back to 2018, there have been four incidents, they have been grievous,” stated Walsh. We must respond to this situation and ensure that all necessary measures are taken to prevent it from occurring again.

As per the current regulations, funeral homes are not subject to routine inspections or operator qualification requirements. Colorado is dealing with severe cases dating back ten years.

Between 2010 and 2018, funeral home operators in Colorado’s western slope were discovered engaging in the illegal sale of body parts and providing families with counterfeit ashes.

Regarding the Return to Nature Funeral Home case, 190 decomposing bodies were discovered stacked on top of each other, causing concern in 2020, three years prior to the finding.

State lawmakers have been slow to pass regulations that are standard in other states. These involve annual inspections and the necessity for funeral home operators to pass an exam or obtain a degree in mortuary science.

In 2022, a law was enacted that granted state regulators the power to conduct surprise inspections at funeral homes, yet the legislation did not allocate extra funds to support these inspections.

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