In 2012 Harold and Dr. Toni Henthorn celebrated their 12th wedding anniversary with a hiking trip in Rocky Mountain National Park. Nice, right? It would have been, except that Toni plunged down a 50-foot cliff to her death. Henthorn told authorities his wife was busy taking photographs and must have slipped, although he didn't see exactly what happened because he was using his phone at the time.
It seemed to be a tragic accident. After all, Harold was a respected member of the community. He was a good guy, loving husband, good father to their daughter and extremely busy working as a fund raiser for churches, charities and non-profit groups. At least that's what he told family, friends and everyone else.
But all was not as it seemed. Henthorn had been living a lie for years. Friends and family thought they knew him, but did they, really? He was able to hide the fact that he didn't work, even though he maintained for years that he did. The U.S. Attorney's crime auditor testified last week that Henthorn had no employment and no steady source of income. Earnings for Henthorn were in 1993, 1999 and 2000, but nothing after that.
Also, an extensive review found that Henthorn, who had a clean police record besides a couple of minor traffic citations, had been charged with shoplifting……underwear! In 1994, Henthorn was arrested for shoplifting $47.49 worth of men's underwear from a JC Penney store. Henthorn was able to keep his shoplifting arrest a secret from everyone who knew him. A government auditor testified at a grand jury hearing that Henthorn not only kept things from friends and family, but also deceived on many occasions. All of this led to the filing of murder charges last week.
Investigators searched deeper, and found that Henthorn's first wife, Sandra, died in 1995 when their Jeep Cherokee fell on her. She, like Dr. Henthorn, died in a rural and deserted area. According to Henthorn, he said a tire felt "spongy", so he pulled off the road to change it. At one point, Sandra ended up underneath the car looking for a lug nut and the car crushed her when it fell off the jack. At that time her death was quickly deemed an accident. She had insurance policies, and Henthorn collected $496,000 from her death. Sandra's death is now being re-investigated more thoroughly by the Douglas County Sheriff's Office.
Toni Henthorn was a skilled ophthalmologist and loving mother. When she died, her daughter was only 7 years old. Her brother, Todd Bertolet, after learning about the theft arrest, said "I'm blown away. He's 38 years old, a married, religious person and he's shoplifting underwear in JC Penney." Her mother, Yvonne Bertolet, says two years since her death, she still finds herself reaching for the phone to call her daughter. "She contributed a lot to society, and to be wiped out for no good reason, it's more devastating." Every morning, she wakes up asking herself, "Did it really happen? Was that a dream?"
Henthorn was able to persuade police his first wife died as the result of a tragic accident. He probably could have continued to live that lie, but if he did this, then greed got the best of him. His second wife had $4.5 million in life insurance.
Full disclaimer: I have not evaluated Harold Henthorn, but if he is guilty of murder then he would fall into the range of what I call a borderline sociopath. This has nothing to do with borderline personality disorder. Rather, it defines an individual that doesn’t meet the criteria for anti-social personality disorder, yet occasionally carries out anti-social acts. They can keep it under control most of the time, but sometimes when opportunity arises they strike. If Henthorn is found guilty, I would not think either killing was premeditated but rather an opportunity arose and impulsively he used it to his advantage.
What kind of mind thinks like that -- to kill based on opportunity? Many notorious serial killers have been sociopaths, such as Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy. Bundy was recognized for being very charming, but also killed more than 30 young women. Gacy was a popular Chicago contractor who entertained children in hospitals, yet also raped, tortured and killed 33 young men. Henthorn has sociopathic tendencies, without doubt, but what makes this so challenging is that a murderer is typically not a sociopath.
Perhaps the most difficult part to understand is that Henthorn had it made. His wife supported him, he didn’t work and he could have continued to live that life forever. Instead, it appears he risked it all for some insurance compensation. We can only hope to learn more as the trial kicks into gear.
For both wives of Harold Henthorn, the locations where they died were deserted and Henthorn was the only other person present. He's either guilty of two murders or he has a perplexing attraction to exceedingly unlucky women. If he is ultimately convicted of murder, he will face a mandatory life sentence with no possibility of parole.