Colorado jury finds man guilty of murder in wife’s death

Published 9:29 am Tuesday, September 22, 2015

A federal jury in Denver Monday convicted Harold Henthorn of murder for pushing his wife to her death off a cliff as they hiked in Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park to celebrate their wedding anniversary.

It took the jury about 10 hours to find Henthorn, 59, guilty of first-degree murder in the death of killing his second wife, former Vicksburg ophthalmologist Toni Bertolet Henthorn, who died after plummeting about 130 feet off a cliff in a remote, rocky area where the couple had been hiking on Sept. 29, 2012, their 12th wedding anniversary.

Henthorn told investigators his wife paused to take a photo of the view and fell face-first over the ledge. His attorney, Craig Truman, said prosecutors failed to prove he killed her.

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Prosecutors argued during a two-week trial that Henthorn carefully staged Toni Henthorn’s death to look like an accident because he stood to benefit from her $4.7 million in life insurance policies, which she didn’t know existed.

They seized on Henthorn’s inconsistent accounts of the fatal fall and said the evidence did not match his shifting stories. Investigators said Henthorn could not explain why he had a park map with an “X’’ drawn where Toni fell.

Henthorn shook his head when the judge polled the jury, and after the verdict was read, one of the jurors hugged Toni Henthorn’s mother, Yvonne Bertolet.

“That was very meaningful,” Bertolet said. “Believe it or not I forgive him (Henthorn) for doing it. I feel for him and his family.”

After the jury was dismissed, applause erupted in the courtroom.

“We are overjoyed with the verdict and relieved this won’t happen to any other lady,” said Barry Bertolet, Toni Henthorn’s brother. “We don’t have to worry anymore.”

Harold Henthorn faces a mandatory life term when he is sentenced Dec. 8.

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.

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 $4.7 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.

The judge let prosecutors present evidence they said 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.

The court also allowed 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 sad 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.