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Highlands Ranch Man Under Investigation After Freak Accidents Kill 2 Wives (page 2)

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Investigator Brian Maass

Also not commenting is the family of Sandra Lynn Henthorn, Harold Henthorn’s first wife who died in a tragic, freak accident in Douglas County. The 37-year-old woman, whose maiden name is Rishell, died in 1995.

In that case, the married couple was returning late at night from a mountain outing when Henthorn told investigators he believed one of the tires on his Jeep Cherokee felt “mushy” and may have been going flat on Highway 67 about 8.5 miles west of Deckers. It’s unclear if the tire was actually flat.

Sandra Lynn Henthorn

(credit: CBS)

Henthorn explained to investigators that as he was changing the tire his wife somehow ended up under the car, possibly looking for a lug nut, when Henthorn said the jack slipped and the car fell on her.

Henthorn told investigators he was placing something in the trunk when the jack slipped, so he didn’t see exactly what happened. Sandra Lynn Henthorn was pronounced dead the next day on May 7, 1995.

Sources familiar with that case say that Henthorn was the beneficiary of at least $300,000 from an insurance policy he had taken out on his wife.

In the case, the coroner ruled “that the cause of death is due to mechanical asphyxiation secondary to a vehicle slipping off the jack and falling on top of the decedent.”

The Douglas County Sheriff’s Department investigated the incident and after seven days, concluded Sandra Lynn Henthorn’s death was accidental. However, Douglas County Sheriff’s investigators have now confirmed to CBS4 they have reopened their 18-year-old investigation into her death.

“It warrants taking another look at,” said Douglas County Sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Ron Hanavan. “We reopened it based on extraordinary circumstances.”

He declined to provide additional details and his office refused to release the 18-year-old case file, citing the newly reopened investigation.

Members of Sandra Lynn Henthorn’s family did not respond to CBS4 inquiries. She had been married to him for 13 years when she died. The two had known each other since they were undergraduates at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. The couple married in September 1982, according to online accounts, and moved to Denver in December 1982.

Harold Henthorn has maintained a relatively low profile since moving to Colorado. While his educational background was as a geologist, friends and neighbors say in recent years Harold Henthorn had mostly been a stay-at-home father, working from his home and trying to raise money for charity organizations and nonprofits. A search shows Henthorn has no criminal background and no arrests.

Neighbors describe him as deeply religious, outgoing, and extremely controlling. One neighbor described him as a devoted father to his 8-year-old daughter. But the same neighbor also said there was something about Henthorn that always left them uneasy and suspicious.

One source familiar with the case says that Harold Henthorn was the beneficiary of “significant” life insurance policies, taken out on his ophthalmologist wife. But with Toni Henthorn’s manner of death still undetermined and a criminal investigation underway, standard insurance procedure would dictate that those policies would not be paid out.

CBS4 has also learned that Toni Henthorn’s Mississippi family is prominent in the oil business, and one source says Harold Henthorn stood to inherit a large amount of money upon his wife’s death.

Former homicide investigator Armistead called it “proper and warranted” that investigators were closely scrutinizing the deaths of Harold Henthorn’s wives.

“Bad luck can happen to somebody, there’s no getting around that. But it always caused me when I see cases like this to be suspicious.”

- Written by Brian Maass for CBSDenver.com

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