Harold Henthorn was one calculating and manipulative murderer. A jury convicted him of murdering his second wife, Toni Bertolet, based on evidence that he murdered his first wife, Sandra ‘Lynn’ Henthorn. Authorities had ruled Sandra’s death an accident, but when Harold repeated the same trick with Toni, they saw Harold for whom he really was – a greedy, cold-hearted murderer.
Henthorn murdered his wives to inherit from life insurance policies. After Lynn’s death, he got half a million dollars and planned to get a sizeable portion from Toni’s $4.7 million life insurance payout. Harold wouldn’t enjoy the money, however, as prosecutors convinced the jury of Harold’s guilt. The court sentenced him to life in prison with no chance of parole.
Harold will remain in prison for the rest of his life after the US Supreme Court declined to hear his case
Harold is imprisoned in a federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana. He will likely remain in the federal prison system for the rest of his life. Henthorn has little chance of appealing his trial or conviction after the US Supreme Court declined to hear his case.
“Today’s conviction means that Harold Henthorn will never hurt or kill another woman,” assistant US attorney Bob Troyer said. “Instead, he will likely spend the rest of his natural life in a prison cell.”
The US Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Harold’s assertion that the District Judge erred in admitting evidence from Sandra Henthorn’s death. Prosecutors used Sandra’s death to point out the similarities between hers and Toni’s deaths. The Appeal’s court found no fault in the District court’s admission of the evidence. Its decision read:
“This case presents us with the difficult issue of whether a district court presiding over a murder trial abused its discretion in admitting evidence of prior, similar incidents, including whether the defendant killed his second wife in circumstances similar to those that led to the death of his first wife.”
It’s hard to ignore the similarities between Toni’s and Sandra’s demises: Harold was the only witness, he gave conflicting accounts of the deaths, Henthorn swiftly cremated their bodies and scattered the ashes on Red mountain, and he gained or stood to gain financially from their deaths.
Investigators refused to rule Toni’s death an accident – they wouldn’t repeat a mistake they’d made 17 years prior. They found that Harold hiked the fateful trail two weeks before Toni’s death, possibly scouring for the best place to stage her murder.
Despite Harold’s claims that he tried to resuscitate Toni, the coroner found no evidence of it: Her lipstick remained in place, which ruled out Harold’s alleged attempts at mouth to mouth, and her anterior ribs showed no signs of the alleged chest compressions that Harold performed.
Perhaps the most damning evidence was a map by Harold that contained an X at the location where Toni died. The X sealed Harold’s conviction, as he couldn’t explain why he’d marked that spot.
Henthorn petitioned for a new trial claiming that his lawyer sabotaged him
Harold petitioned for a new trial citing ‘ineffective assistance of counsel.’ He claimed that he paid attorney Craig Truman over a million dollars, but Truman ‘acted in his own self-interest and put his personal financial gain ahead of conducting a solid defense for me.’
Henthorn referred to Truman as a fraud whose purpose was to extort him. Harold added that Truman prevented him from contributing to the defense strategy. Henthorn further claimed:
“He was not working on my behalf but misled me only for his financial gain. It is not right or fair to be defended in a murder trial by someone being dishonest or deceptive for their own personal advantage. Therefore, I am requesting a re-trial with representation from an ethical attorney.”
Harold’s application represents his last throw of the dice as his appeals have been rejected at every level.
Lynn’s sister believes that she could have been the third victim of Harold’s greed
Toni and Lynn’s families gave heartbreaking impact statements during Harold’s sentencing. Lynn’s brother, Kevin Richell, apologized to Toni’s family for failing to see through Harold’s lies. “We are beyond sorry for not seeing through it,” Richell said. “I think there is a special place in hell for someone like him.”
Barbara Cashman, guardian ad litem of Toni and Harold’s daughter Haley, testified that Haley feared turning out like her dad. “I think she was at risk of serious emotional harm,” Barbara said. Thankfully, she stated that Haley changed following time away from her father. She added that Haley no longer viewed Harold as her father:
“Free from Harold Henthorn’s insistence that everything is just fine, Haley has been allowed to mourn for her mother. She went trick-or-treating for the first time on this Halloween. Haley does not wish to refer to Harold anymore as her father, but only as Mr. Henthorn.”
Grace Rishell followed proceedings, wondering how she’s escaped Harold’s trap. Harold stayed close to Lynn’s family after her death and helped raise Grace’s children. In 2009, he convinced her to take out a life insurance policy worth $250,000 for her children’s benefit.
A year later, she informed Harold’s broker to cancel the policy. “He [Harold] came back at me with, ‘after all I’ve spent investing in you, pouring all of our knowledge, all of our information – and you’re not grateful,” Grace says in the Hulu’s Wild Crime. “I saw him as being very controlling at a whole new level.”
Unbeknownst to Grace, Harold never canceled the policy; instead, he changed the beneficiary to himself and increased the payout to $400,000. ‘I was just shocked,” Grace described the moment she discovered Harold’s treachery. “I definitely felt that I could have been the third victim. How have I not seen through this guy?”
Grace told The Denver Post that she believes Harold took a trip to Texas in August 2012 to look for remote areas to stage her murder. “It’s creepy, scary, ugly,” she said. “You feel used. You feel contaminated. I don’t know why I’m alive and Lynn and Toni are not.”