Jury selection starts in death of former doctor

Published 9:51 am Friday, September 4, 2015

Jury selection began this week in the trial of a man accused of shoving his second wife, a former Vicksburg eye doctor, to her death off a cliff in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Opening statements in the federal trial of 58-year-old Harold Henthorn are scheduled for Tuesday, and jury selection began Wednesday in Denver.

He is charged with killing his wife, Toni Bertolet Henthorn, during a scenic hike they took in September 2012 to celebrate their wedding anniversary.

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Toni Bertolet Henthorn grew up in Natchez and was an ophthalmologist in Vicksburg and Jackson before meeting Harold Henthorn on a Christian singles website, marrying him and moving to Colorado.

She practiced at the former River Region Medical Center and took over practice for Dr. John B. Ederington after he retired in 1997, said Dr. James Cook, a retired ophthalmologist and a former colleague of Toni Bertolet Henthorn.

“I hope they nail him. I feel certain the guy did it,” Cook said of Harold Henthorn.

The couple were visiting the national park for their 12th anniversary when the Vicksburg ophthalmologist paused to take a photo from a ledge in the steep, rocky terrain of Deer Mountain.

She tumbled face first over the ledge, according to autopsy reports that left questions about whether she fell or was pushed.

After Toni Henthorn died, 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.
Records also indicate Harold Henthorn as the inheritor of hundreds of thousands of dollars in bank accounts in his wife’s name.

A judge will let prosecutors present evidence they suggests Henthorn also killed his first wife. Sandra Lynn Henthorn, 30, 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.

Officials reopened their investigation into her death.

Investigators say Henthorn could not explain why he had a park map with an “X’’ drawn where Toni fell. They say he stood to benefit from her $4.5 million in life insurance policies.

The court will also allow evidence that in fall 2011, the couple were at a cabin in Grand Lake, Colo., when a beam hit Toni on the head and fractured one of her vertebrae. Authorities say the beam fell of the porch where Harold Hentorn was working after he called Toni to help him.

The Associated Press Contributed to this story.