For their 12th wedding anniversary, Harold Henthorn took his wife, Toni, for a hike to enjoy the resplendent autumn color and snowy peaks of Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park.
They set out on the steep and craggy terrain of Deer Mountain, then walked off a trail to a ledge to capture the view.
Toni paused to take a photo. She tumbled face first over the ledge, according to autopsy reports that left questions about whether she fell or was pushed.
“Homicide cannot be excluded,” the coroner wrote.
This week, a federal grand jury indicted Harold Henthorn, 58, on a charge of first-degree murder, more than two years after Toni Henthorn’s death on Sept. 29, 2012. Prosecutors haven’t released details of their case, aside from the indictment that says Henthorn, a resident of Highlands Ranch in Denver’s suburbs, killed his 50-year-old wife with premeditation and malice.
“I’m sure when all the facts are known in this difficult and complicated case, justice will be done,” said Henthorn’s attorney, Craig L. Thurman.
Henthorn was the only witness to his wife’s fall — a case eerily reminiscent of that of Jordan Linn Graham, who was convicted of killing her husband of just eight days by pushing him off a cliff in Montana’s Glacier National Park in July 2013. Graham was sentenced to 30 years and five months in prison but has appealed her conviction.
It took Henthorn 15 minutes to find his wife splayed on the mountainside below, autopsy reports show. She was still breathing. It took rescuers another hour and a half to reach her, but by then, she had died.
For Toni Henthorn’s brother, Harold Henthorn’s arrest renewed long-held doubts.
Harold Henthorn seemed controlling and dishonest about the couple’s financial situation, lying about a business he claimed to own so that Toni would move away from her family in Mississippi to be with him in Denver, said her brother, Todd Bertolet.
It was only after Toni Henthorn died that relatives realized she had three life insurance policies totaling $4.5 million. Court records show a claim was sent in for one of the policies just two days after her death.
They also show Harold Henthorn as the inheritor of hundreds of thousands of dollars in bank accounts in his wife’s name.
Among his wife’s relatives, Harold Henthorn also seemed reluctant to talk much about his first wife, Sandra Lynn Henthorn, 30, who was crushed to death in 1995 when a car slipped off a jack while she and Harold were changing a flat tire, according to autopsy reports.
The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office said Friday it is still investigating that death.
“He said his first wife died in a car accident,” Bertolet said. “He wouldn’t talk about her much at all. He would request people who had photos of her in their homes to remove them, almost like she didn’t exist.”
Toni Henthorn was a successful ophthalmologist who owned her own practice in Jackson, Mississippi, when she met Harold Henthorn through a Christian singles website. She was divorced and lonely, and Henthorn seemed to come around at the right time.
“She overlooked some character flaws with Harold,” he said.
He told her he was wealthy and convinced her to move away with him, Bertolet said. But once in Denver, he seemed obsessed with money.
He’d tell his wife he was taking business trips, but wouldn’t say where he was going, Bertolet said. He claimed to be self-employed as a fundraiser for nonprofits, but relatives aren’t convinced he actually held a job.
“I can’t say I ever really felt comfortable with him,” Bertolet said. “The women in our family were raised to be independent and strong, and that’s not the lifestyle my sister was living in when she was with him.”
The two had a daughter, now 9. Toni’s family is seeking custody.
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