Denver police announce arrest of Littleton funeral home owner accused of misconduct

Funeral Home Owner Cremains Found
David Zalubowski/AP
The residence where a former funeral home owner kept a deceased women’s body in a hearse for two years as well as the remains of 30 cremated people is shown Friday, Feb. 16, 2024, in southwest Denver. The discovery occurred on Feb. 6 during a court-ordered eviction of the home rented by 33-year-old Miles Harford.

A former funeral home owner accused of abuse of a corpse, forgery and theft, is in custody. In a statement, the Denver Police Department said Englewood police arrested Miles Harford late Thursday night.

Authorities initially said Harford was cooperating with an investigation into his funeral home after they announced a warrant for his arrest last week. The 33-year-old spoke with police about turning himself in, but did not do so. 

DPD announced a $2,000 Crimestoppers award Thursday afternoon for information leading to Harford’s arrest, but it’s unclear whether his arrest was the result of a tip.

Harford first came under investigation during the court-ordered eviction of a home he rented in southwest Denver. Police said a search of the property uncovered a woman’s body that was left in a hearse for two years, as well as the cremated remains of at least 30 people.

Harford previously operated Apollo Funeral & Cremation Services in Littleton, but shut the business down in September 2022.

It appears Harford had financial trouble and was at times not able to complete cremations properly, Denver Police Cmdr. Matt Clark said during a Feb. 16 news conference. On occasion, Harford might have provided family members with another person's ashes instead of the ashes of their loved ones, Clark said.

The recovered cremains appear to be associated with individuals who died between 2012 and 2021, Clark said. The woman whose body was found under blankets in the back of Harford’s hearse died in August 2022. Harford's funeral home was set to be evicted from its venue months prior, but that June, he requested extra time to "pack and transport confidential and private business documents and other items." It's unclear when Harford took possession of the body.

Last year, a woman named Ronna Phelps, who identified herself as Harford's former employer, filed for a temporary protection order against him. She accused him of stealing from her and sending her threatening messages. In the request, she also said she had given two of her deceased pets to Harford for cremation, which he never completed despite her paying for his services.

Harford is being held at the Arapahoe County Jail as of Friday morning. 

This case is the latest to underscore lax oversight of Colorado’s funeral industry. Several Colorado lawmakers, with the support of the Colorado Funeral Homes Directors Association, plan to propose new regulations for funeral homes during the upcoming legislative session.

The most recent case came to light in the fall of 2023, when the owners of a so-called green burial company in Penrose, the Return to Nature Funeral Home, were charged with improperly storing nearly 200 bodies and sending fake ashes to families. 

In another high-profile case, the operators of a funeral home in Montrose were found to have sold body parts from hundreds of corpses without the permission of the deceased or their loved ones. Megan Hess, the former owner of Sunset Mesa Funeral Directors, is now serving a 20-year federal sentence.

CPR News’ Bente Birkeland contributed to this report.