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Colorado families may have received fake ashes after 189 bodies found at funeral home, evidence suggests

Families in Colorado may have received fake ashes from a funeral home where nearly 200 decaying bodies were discovered this month, according to information gathered by The Associated Press from customers and crematories. The facility may have also fabricated cremation records, evidence suggests.

Families who took the remains of their loved ones to Return to Nature Funeral Home, located on Werner Road in Penrose, fear their relatives weren’t actually cremated and could still be among the unidentified corpses. Authorities found the bodies and began an investigation on October 3, after receiving a report of an “abhorrent smell” emanating from the facility.

“My mom’s last wish was for her remains to be scattered in a place she loved, not rotting away in a building,” Tanya Wilson, who believes the ashes she spread in Hawaii in August were fake, told the Associated Press. “Any peace that we had, thinking that we honored her wishes, you know, was just completely ripped away from us.”

Death certificates provided to Wilson’s family by Return to Nature reportedly stated that their loved ones’ remains had been handled by one of two crematories, but those businesses told the AP that they had not performed cremations for Return to Nature on the dates indicated.

Barbara Kemmis, director of the Cremation Association of North America, said that someone can test whether the ashes are human remains or concrete by wetting the material and seeing whether it hardens when it dries.

She clarified, however, that properly cremated remains include bone fragments that do not have any organic material left. That means they lack DNA that could be used to identify individuals. Sometimes RNA is preserved in the bone fragments, however, so results can determine whether the ashes are from a male or female and whether they are from a human or another animal, she said.

Fox News’ Sarah Rumpf-Whitten and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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