According to the Associated Press, the investigation began after local residents reported smelling a “foul stench” coming from a building owned by the funeral home.
Deputies were called to the building on Tuesday night, and investigators found the improperly stored remains after returning to the funeral home with a search warrant on Wednesday.
Fremont County Sheriff Allen Cooper stated that they are coordinating with other agencies to determine if any wrongdoing occurred. The FBI is also involved in the ongoing investigation.
“It is not clear if a crime has been committed,” FBI spokeswoman Vikki Migoya said. “That is a focus of the investigation at the state and federal level.”
Authorities also reportedly assured the public that there are currently no health risks as a result of improperly handled remains.
The 2,500-square-foot facility, which is located next to the town’s post office, was described as being similar in size to an average U.S. home.
Police tape cordoned off the area and trash bags were seen outside the building. Locals also said that a “putrid odor” filled the air near the funeral home.
Joyce Pavetti, a resident in the area, told reporters that she could smell the putrid odor in recent weeks. She said she assumed it was a dead animal until the local law enforcement became involved.
“On Wednesday night, I could see lights from law enforcement swarming around the building, and I knew something was going on,” Pavetti said.
Meanwhile, the father of a 25-year-old U.S. Navy serviceman who died last summer revealed that the Return to Nature Funeral Home had handled his son’s body prior to the funeral service.
Paul Saito Kahler, the father, expressed concerns regarding the matter but told reporters that he currently has no information to make any judgments.
“I mean, there are obviously questions after hearing that there is something going on but there’s not any information that I can go off of to really make any kind of judgment on it,” he said.
The Return to Nature Funeral Home advertised itself as offering eco-friendly burial options without embalming fluids or concrete vaults.
The company charged $1,895 for a “natural burial” – which did not include the cost of a casket or cemetery space. The funeral home also offered chemical-free cremations.
The building and lot where the funeral home is located are reportedly owned by Hallfordhomes, LLC, which has since been declared delinquent by the Colorado Secretary of State.
The funeral home itself was licensed in 2017, and there were no disciplinary actions listed against the company on a state license database.