AP

Colorado governor signs bills regulating funeral homes after discovery of 190 rotting bodies

May 25, 2024, 11:42 AM

Colorado State Capitol Building, partially obscured by trees, on East Colfax Avenue in Denver, Colo...

Colorado State Capitol Building, partially obscured by trees, on East Colfax Avenue in Denver, Colorado, circa 1965. The neoclassical building, built from Colorado white granite, was designed by Elijah E Myers. (Photo by Vincent Brown, Manchester/Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

(Photo by Vincent Brown, Manchester/Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

DENVER (AP) — Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed two bills into law Friday that overhaul state oversight of the funeral home industry after a series of gruesome discoveries, including 190 discomposing bodies in a facility, families being sent fake ashes and the unauthorized sale of body parts.

The cases put Colorado’s lax funeral home regulations — some of the weakest in the nation — in the spotlight and rocked hundreds of already grieving families.

Some families had ceremonially spread ashes that turned out to be fake. Others said they had nightmares about what their loved ones might have looked like in a decayed state.

“When grieving the loss of a loved one, the last thing a family should worry about is the trustworthiness and professionalism of those entrusted to care for the person who has passed,” Polis said in a statement.

At least 189 bodies found decaying at a Colorado funeral home, up from 115, officials say

The new laws bring Colorado in line with most other states.

One requires regulators to routinely inspect funeral homes and give them more enforcement power. Another implements licensing for funeral directors and other workers in the industry. They would need to pass background checks and a national exam while possessing degrees and work experience.

Previously, funeral home directors in Colorado didn’t have to graduate from high school, let alone have a degree.

The funeral home industry was generally on board with the changes though some expressed concern that strict requirements for funeral home directors were unnecessary and would make it difficult to find hirable applicants.

The bill signings follow a rocky year for Colorado funeral homes.

In early October, neighbors noticed a putrid smell coming from a building in the town of Penrose about two hours south of Denver. Authorities soon found 190 decaying bodies there including adults, infants and fetuses.

Some were stacked atop each other. Decomposition fluid covered the floors while flies and maggots swarmed.

Almost two dozen bodies dated to 2019 and some 60 more were from 2020. As the bodies were identified, families who had received ashes learned the cremains weren’t their loved ones.

The mother of a man whose body was found in the Penrose facility said she would keep after Colorado lawmakers to make sure the new laws are implemented stringently.

“I’m super excited. I think this is a great first step,” said Crystina Page, mother of David Jaxon Page, 20, who was killed by police during a mental health crisis in 2019.

The new laws should lead to regulations requiring crematoriums to independently verify the identity of remains, then certify to the state that those remains were cremated, Page said.

In most states, funeral homes are routinely inspected but no such rules were on the books in Colorado. The owners of the funeral home were arrested in November and collectively face hundreds of charges of abusing corpses and other counts.

Just months later, in February, a woman’s body was found in the back of hearse where a suburban Denver funeral home had left it for over a year. At least 30 sets of cremated remains were found stashed throughout the funeral director’s home.


Bedayn is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

Mead Gruver in Cheyenne, Wyoming, contributed to this report.

KSL 5 TV Live

AP

FILE: Elected officials and representatives from U.S. Men’s and Women’s National Teams unveil t...

Associated Press

Possible 2026 World Cup training camps may include Salt Lake City or Herriman

Possible team training camps for the 2026 World Cup include a site in Salt Lake City among several other U.S. cities.

5 hours ago

The statue 'Contemplation of Justice' sits above the west front plaza of the U.S. Supreme Court on ...

Mark Sherman

Supreme Court rules California man can’t trademark ‘Trump too small’

The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled against a man who wants to trademark the suggestive phrase “Trump too small.”

6 hours ago

FILE - Boxes of the drug mifepristone sit on a shelf at the West Alabama Women's Center in Tuscaloo...

Mark Sherman

Unanimous Supreme Court preserves access to widely used abortion medication

The Supreme Court has preserved access to a medication that was used in nearly two-thirds of all abortions in the U.S. last year.

6 hours ago

FILE - The 1200 building at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., is seen, Oct. 2...

Terry Spencer, Associated Press

Six years after the Parkland school massacre, the bloodstained building will finally be demolished

The demolition of the building where 17 people died in the 2018 Parkland school shooting is set to begin. Crews will begin tearing down the three-story building at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Friday.

15 hours ago

File - Workers install lighting on an "X" sign atop the company headquarters, formerly known as Twi...

Associated Press

What happened to the likes? X is now hiding which posts you like from other users

Social media platform X is now hiding your likes.

22 hours ago

Police say they arrested a man Friday in the investigation of a violent murder in West Valley City....

Teresa Crawford, Associated Press

3 deputies shot while responding to northern Illinois home, suspect also wounded, official says

Authorities say three sheriff’s deputies have been shot while responding to a northern Illinois home.

23 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Photo courtesy of Artists of Ballet West...

Ballet West

The rising demand for ballet tickets: why they’re harder to get

Ballet West’s box office is experiencing demand they’ve never seen before, leaving many interested patrons unable to secure tickets they want.

Electrician repairing ceiling fan with lamps indoors...

Lighting Design

Stay cool this summer with ceiling fans

When used correctly, ceiling fans help circulate cool and warm air. They can also help you save on utilities.

Side view at diverse group of children sitting in row at school classroom and using laptops...

PC Laptops

5 internet safety tips for kids

Read these tips about internet safety for kids so that your children can use this tool for learning and discovery in positive ways.

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why printer security should be top of mind for your business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light up your home with these top lighting trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for hassle-free computer repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Colorado governor signs bills regulating funeral homes after discovery of 190 rotting bodies