Her Wedding Anniversary Celebration ended in Tragedy and her Husband tried to get away with Murder a second time

Jax Hudur

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Toni and Harold HenthornCBS news

When Harold and Toni Henthorn went hiking on the Rocky mountain national park, Toni did not know that she was walking into the jaws of death. The couple was celebrating their 12th wedding anniversary.

Background

Toni Henthorn was born on January 10, 1962, in Jackson, Mississippi. Her mother, Yvonne, was a nursing teacher, and Bob Bertolet, her father, was a geologist. The family was relatively wealthy, making their money from oil found on their land. Toni was an eye surgeon and had a thriving medical practice. Despite her achievements, starting a family of her own was the next stepping block to fulfill her accomplished life. In 1999 she met Harold Henthorn online on a Christian website, and nine months later, the couple tied the knot.

Recalling the first time the Bertolets met their future son-in-law, they noted Harold’s impatience as he wanted to get married hurriedly. They took his zeal as an expression of love for Toni, but the family was also in on a secret. Toni was desperate to become a mother. Todd Bertolet, Toni’s brother, reminiscing about his sister and Harold said, “My sister did a terrible job of picking guys, but here was finally someone who was supposedly financially secure and successful.” The family warmed up to Harold, but everything changed after Toni and Harold got married.

Manipulative tactics

The first thing Harold did immediately after the marriage was to convince Toni to leave everything behind. She left her family, friends, and her successful medical practice and moved to Colorado, where she knew nobody. Harold was her everything, and he, in return, took away everything.

The Bertolets could not recognize their daughter, who, up until she met Harold, was confident and firm in her convictions. Harold was in total control of her, and emboldened, he was determined to control her every contact with her family. The controlling aspect was so encompassing that Toni wasn’t allowed to call her parents on their birthdays; instead, Harold would phone the Bertolets and wish them well. He completely isolated her, giving her no respite. His domination also extended to her professional life. Christie Drew, a colleague, noted how Harold was involved with everything happening at Toni’s medical practice in Denver. She said, “When our doctors would have meetings … Harold had to be part of it, he had to know everything she was doing.” The man was a control freak.

The tactics he employed in his nefarious endeavor to control Toni were subtle. He would refuse to travel with Toni whenever she wanted to visit her parents. Instead, her elderly parents would make the long plane journey to visit their daughter. However, whenever the Bertolets phoned their daughter, it was always Harold who answered the phone and the one who spoke. They could not talk to Toni without Harold, and worse, phone calls became Harold’s show where Toni’s voice was drowned in his jokes and bragging.

In 2005, Harold and Toni welcomed a baby daughter, Haley. Yvonne and Bob were happy that their daughter was no longer alone with Harold, whom they have come to dislike as they found him difficult. To their disbelief, Harold’s leash also extended to the baby. He called the shots on what the baby ate when to have playdates with other parents, right down to when to put the baby to sleep. Toni had no say, no control, and she was becoming obscure if not invincible altogether. She became a shell of a human on autopilot, doing and saying whatever Harold demanded.

Harold’s control did not stop after Haley grew up from the baby stage; her room’s video monitor was still running under the watchful eye of Harold. To Harold, nothing has changed, and no amount of little independence was tolerated. Toni was no longer the high-achieving eye surgeon; instead, she was now no more than a shadow of her former self. Even as a shadow, she was slowly shrinking and fading away.

Harold advertised himself to the Bertolets as a very wealthy man and often bragged that Toni would never need to work as he would take care of his young family. However, truth on the ground was far from reality. It was Bob and Yvonne who had to fork the money for the couple’s down payment for their first house and car. The supportive parents did not know that while they were covering all these expenses, Harold would make it an endless pain and bickering whenever Toni suggested buying something. Yet, when Harold wanted something, it did not matter what it was; he had to get it.

Attempt on Toni’s life

When in May 2011, Yvonne received a phone call from her son-in-law that Toni was recovering in hospital, her motherly instincts kicked in. Their worry was multiplied by the made-up story Harold concocted as a coverup.

Harold explained that Toni was injured late at night at a cabin he owned located near the grand lake. He claimed that he asked for her help, and as she was clearing some debris, a large wooden beam fell off from the porch and hit her neck. Who does construction work on a cabin that late in the night? The cabin was isolated; the timing was perfect as it was late at night. However, for the Bertolets, it was too absurd of an explanation.

The extent of this injury was so profound that it nearly ended her career as a surgeon. Months later, when a recovered Toni came to visit her parents alone and without Harold’s watchful eye, Yvonne did not waste the rare occasion and frankly spoke to her daughter. She said, “You do with this what you want to. But I would be very careful. I would not go anywhere alone with this man.” Unfortunately, her premonition was lost on Toni as she was silent throughout the conversation. A few months later, she was dead.

Toni Henthorn’s murder

On September 29, 2012, Harold and Toni were celebrating their 12th wedding anniversary. Harold planned every detail of the celebration, including a stay at Stanley Hotel and trekking in the mountains. Pictures before Toni’s death show the couple smiling, pausing to take pictures, and holding hands.

Unfortunately for Toni, the pictures were documenting her early demise. Prosecutors believe Harold chose a secluded, remote location with no cell phone coverage and pushed Toni off a 130 ft high cliff on the north summit of deer mountain, where she fell to her death.

It took 45 minutes for Harold to make the first 911 call. Call operators noted how calm Harold was as they could hear him breathing down onto the phone. Any average person would have been out of their mind. Contrary to his calm and collected demeanor, Harold was making excessive grandiose demands, telling 911 operators to bring an alpine chopper and that he would pay for it. However, when park rangers eventually found Toni, she was already dead.

According to reports, Harold explained to investigators that he dragged Toni’s body over rocks to get her to a suitable flat position where he could “perform” CPR, justifying the extensive injuries on the victim’s body. The dragging did not matter much to Toni as she was already dead, but it shows Harold’s callous nature and how devoid of empathy the man was.

Investigating Toni’s death was Dave Weaver, a former air force officer who retired after 20 years of service, but after moving to Denver, became a police officer. Detective Weaver started investigating Toni’s death, but he knew something was amiss even from the beginning. Detective Weaver’s investigation uncovered that Harold had previously scouted the murder location nine times, marking X on a map (found in Harold’s car) weeks before Toni’s murder. Next, he discovered that this murder was not Harold’s first.

Lynn Henthorn’s murder

In May 1995, Harold’s first wife, Lynn Henthorn died suspiciously. Both deaths shared similarities; they happened in a remote area in a freak accident, and the timing was jaw-dropping. Both murders happened after Harold celebrated their 12th wedding anniversary.

As the couple was driving, Harold suspected that they had a punctured wheel; however, in a bid to change the tires, Lynn crawled under the car. The Jack gave way as the car came crashing down on an unsuspecting Lynn. Her cause of death was ruled as “traumatic asphyxiation.” Investigators ruled it as an accident, but it was now believed that Harold deliberately kicked the Jack and crushed the car on her. Detective Weaver’s investigation found that Harold had taken several life insurances on Lynn, except when previous investigators questioned him, he only disclosed one life insurance. Harold ended up collecting over $600k as the sole beneficiary of his wife.

Similarly, Harold had taken multiple life insurance policies on Toni, which amounted to a whopping sum of $6 million. As if the six million were not enough, Harold also made himself the sole beneficiary of a $250k life insurance annuity, which the Bertolets had bought for their daughter.

Aftermath

Against her parents’ wishes, Harold cremated Toni’s remains few days after her death, precisely as he did 17 years before with his first wife, Lynn. Harold scattered Toni’s ashes at the same place he had spread Lynn’s. Bob and Yvonne had long suspected that Harold murdered their daughter. However, Harold was arrested in 2014 and charged with first-degree murder by federal authorities as the murder took place on federal land.

On December 8, 2015, a federal judge sentenced Harold to life in prison with no chance of parole. Speaking to the judge, he pleaded his innocence by saying, “I did not kill Toni or anyone.” He also declared his love for his daughter Haley. Fortunately for Haley, she was saved from the care of a monster, and had he genuinely loved his daughter, he would not have taken her mother away from her.

Barry Bertolet, the brother of Toni and his wife Paula, became Haley’s official ward. For the first time in her life, Haley did her first Halloween trick or treat, free from her father’s control and manipulations. Her uncle Barry and Paula had to teach her how to trick or treat.

Sources linked

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I write about history, politics and true crime. Not to mention anything else that takes my fancy or newsworthy. "No special talents. Only passionately curious." Albert Einstein

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