Rotting our bodies, counterfeit ashes and bought physique elements are forcing Colorado to undertake lax guidelines for funeral properties

Norman Ray
Norman Ray

International Courant

DENVER — After almost 200 our bodies have been discovered piled and rotting at a Colorado funeral residence, lawmakers launched payments to overtake the state’s threadbare rules, which have failed to forestall a string of ugly circumstances — from bought physique elements to counterfeit ashes.

The circumstances have devastated a whole lot of households. Many found that the stays of their family members weren’t within the ashes they ceremoniously scattered or held tightly for years, however have been as an alternative decaying in a constructing or, in a single case, on the again of a hearse.

Their devastation prompted state lawmakers to unveil a bipartisan invoice Monday that will implement Colorado’s first licensing necessities to turn out to be a funeral residence director, bringing licensing guidelines consistent with and surpassing most of all different states. The invoice additionally imposes necessities on different jobs within the business, together with embalmers and cremationists.

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“Too many Colorado households have needed to face the horrific and unacceptable actuality that the stays of their family members have been mishandled, misplaced, improperly cared for, bought and utterly disrespected,” mentioned Democratic Senator Dylan Roberts, one of many invoice’s sponsors. A press convention.

“Issues have reached a breaking level,” he mentioned.

It is a dramatic replace in a state the place funeral administrators should not required to have a highschool diploma. If the invoice passes, a license would require a background test, a mortuary science diploma, a nationwide examination and an internship.

In February, simply months after 190 our bodies have been discovered at a bug-infested funeral residence two hours south of Denver, one other physique was present in a separate case: that of Christina Rosales.

Rosales’ physique was left lined in blankets in a hearse for eighteen months. It was solely found as a result of the proprietor of the funeral residence in a Denver suburb was evicted. Rosales had died of Alzheimer’s illness at age 63, and her husband, George Rosales, had chosen the funeral residence as a result of they have been pals with the proprietor.

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When George Rosales realized that his late spouse’s physique had been left on a hearse gurney and that he had been given another person’s ashes, he tried to remain sturdy for his or her two younger grownup youngsters.

Privately, he mentioned Monday by teary eyes: “I cried for her many instances.”

“After 18 months I believed I used to be performed, however it began once more,” he mentioned after talking on the press convention in favor of the invoice. “I in all probability would not have came upon about my spouse’s physique if it wasn’t for him. I will not be deported.”

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A second Colorado invoice to be launched would require routine inspections by regulators even after a funeral residence’s registration expires — which occurred on the funeral residence that employed George Rosales. Colorado presently lags far behind the remainder of the states, lots of which conduct routine inspections yearly or each few years.

“We presently have licenses for hairdressers. We’re presently inspecting eating places. We have to do one thing comparable, or actually extra, for funeral properties,” mentioned Republican Rep. Matt Soper, one of many invoice’s sponsors.

When the FBI advised Shelia Canfield-Jones that her daughter’s stays had been discovered amongst almost 200 at a facility in Colorado, she sat in disbelief together with the officers holding the urn. The mom refused to half with what she thought have been her daughter’s ashes for 4 years.

Canfield-Jones recalled an official lastly eradicating the ashes from the urn and repeating, “It is not your daughter.”

“He needed to inform us time and again,” she mentioned in an interview, her eyes welling up. “It was horrible.”

Canfield-Jones has nightmares about her daughter’s decomposing physique.

The 190 our bodies have been found in a constructing in Penrose final 12 months, and the homeowners have been arrested and face a whole lot of expenses, together with abuse of a corpse. The native coroner had already raised a crimson flag in 2020, three years earlier than the our bodies have been found.

Joe Walsh, president of the Colorado Funeral Administrators Affiliation, mentioned the group helps the laws, though he cautioned in opposition to believing these guidelines will stop all future accidents.

“Sure, we’ve got the license, however sadly that does not imply it may be perfection,” Walsh mentioned. Nonetheless, he says it is an essential step to indicate Coloradans that they’ll belief the business and keep away from as many dangerous actors as potential.

“The easiest way to do that is to enhance and present that we adapt, adapt and overcome,” he mentioned.

The invoice additionally consists of an possibility for individuals who already function funeral properties however haven’t met the brand new necessities, which is able to take impact in 2026. The choice would require 6,500 hours of labor expertise and a felony background test to acquire a provisional license. that will turn out to be a full license after two years with out self-discipline.

To resume a license, funeral residence administrators would once more be required to take brief lessons on relevant regulation, ethics and public well being necessities.

“There is a common understanding that issues want to vary,” mentioned Patty Salazar, govt director of the state company that oversees funeral properties. “Colorado should and can do higher by passing this laws.”


Bedayn is a employees member for the Related Press/Report for America Statehouse Information Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit nationwide service program that locations journalists in native newsrooms to report on undercovered points.

Rotting our bodies, counterfeit ashes and bought physique elements are forcing Colorado to undertake lax guidelines for funeral properties

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