HIGHLANDS RANCH, Colo. (CBS4) – The family of a Highlands Ranch ophthalmologist is casting doubt on her husband’s explanation of how the 50-year-old woman died in a fall from a cliff in September 2012.
“Nobody has that much bad luck,” said Dr. Toni Henthorn’s brother, Todd Bertolet, in his family’s first interview regarding his sister’s mysterious death.
The well-liked eye doctor fell to her death on Sept. 29, 2012, the day before her 12th wedding anniversary, as she hiked with her husband, Harold Henthorn, 57, along Deer Mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Harold Henthorn told investigators his wife slipped and fell about 50 feet during the hike, but the Larimer County Coroner’s Office isn’t certain her death was an accident, according to an autopsy report obtained by CBS4.
“The manner of death is undetermined,” wrote the forensic pathologist who conducted the Henthorn autopsy. “Toni Henthorn … died as a result of multiple blunt force injuries when she fell or was pushed down a cliff while hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park. Homicide cannot be excluded.”
The FBI has confirmed to CBS4 that it is investigating Toni Henthorn’s death. Agents have crisscrossed the country conducting interviews about Harold and Toni Henthorn, trying to ascertain precisely what happened. Fourteen months after her death, that investigation is ongoing.
In an exclusive interview with CBS4, Toni Henthorn’s brother, sister-in-law and parents said Harold Henthorn’s account of what happened does not add up, and they revealed Toni Henthorn was badly hurt in another accident involving her husband about a year before her death.
“I just felt immediately he was responsible,” said Bertolet.
“I took it immediately as him doing this. He had a hand in my sister’s death, no doubt in my mind,” said the grieving brother.
CBS4 has made contact twice with Harold Henthorn seeking answers about what happened on Deer Mountain. He has declined to answer questions and referred inquiries to his attorney, Craig Truman, who has also declined to discuss the case.
Harold Henthorn has told some friends and neighbors he loved his wife and was not responsible for her death. The couple had a daughter who is now 8 and lives with her father. Harold Henthorn has not been arrested or charged with a crime.
Bertolet explained that since his sister’s passing, he and his family have discovered a series of lies and shifting stories they say Harold Henthorn has told over the years. Among them, they say Harold Henthorn represented himself as a wealthy businessman who was gainfully employed, raising money for charities and nonprofit groups.
Year after year, they say Henthorn wrote annual letters recounting the success of his various companies. They now say Henthorn has since admitted he hasn’t worked in years. CBS4 has been unable to find evidence the companies existed that Henthorn said he worked for.
“The trophy of the family was tarnished by a loser who doesn’t pull his weight, has no job, is not a good person and is a liar. That’s not what my parents had envisioned for their daughter,” said Bertolet.
He said the families suspicions grew when they learned the truth about how Harold Henthorn’s first wife died in 1995.
The CBS4 Investigation reported that in that case, Harold Henthorn and his then-wife Lynn were on a desolate road in Douglas County, late at night when Harold Henthorn said he wanted to change a tire after believing it was losing air. Somehow, Henthorn said Lynn ended up under the car, possibly looking for a lugnut, when the jack holding up the Jeep slipped, and the car fell on Lynn. She was pronounced dead the next day, May 7, 1995. There were no witnesses in that case and after one week, Douglas County investigators ruled Lynn Henthorn’s death an accident.
They have now re-opened that 18 year old investigation citing “extraordinary circumstances.”
“We were originally told the first wife died in a car accident,” said Todd Bertolet. “He(Harold) told us that.”
Bertolet said it was only after his sister’s 2012 death that the family learned Harold Henthorn’s first wife’s death was the result of more than just a car accident.
“It’s a lie by omission,” said the brother.
He called it “ridiculous” that Douglas County investigators ruled that case an accident after just one week.
Ron Hanavan, a spokesman for the Douglas County Sheriff’s Department declined to discuss the 1995 investigation or release the case file to CBS4 citing the newly reopened investigation.
Todd Bertolet told CBS4 his sister had been misled about how Harold Henthorn’s first wife perished.
“My sister didn’t have that information. I feel like if she knew the real story about the first wife there would have been a lot more scrutiny of Harold Henthorn as a fiancée and husband. I think she was deceived a lot about a lot of things. I think the deception started from day one and it never ended. To have two wives die in freak accidents,” said Bertolet, “the odds are better you will win the Powerball lottery.”
CBS4 has learned that shortly before his first wife’s death in 1995, Harold Henthorn had taken out at least one $300,000 insurance policy on his wife, Lynn. The family of Toni Henthorn has told CBS4 that Harold Henthorn told them he had also taken out significant life insurance policies on Toni Henthorn.
They say Henthorn told them the insurance policies were necessary due to his wife’s status as a doctor. They also told CBS4 that Toni Henthorn’s death led to a significant inheritance going directly to Harold Henthorn.
During several hours of family interviews, Toni Henthorn’s mother, Yvonne Bertolet, told CBS4 that about a year before her daughter died, there had been another serious accident involving Harold Henthorn.
“Toni called me about 2011 one year before she died,” recounted the mother. “And she said ‘Momma, we were up at the cabin and Harold called me outside and he was up working on the porch’ … and a beam fell and hit her on the back of the head and they called an ambulance and she was taken to the hospital.”
The mother told CBS4 that her daughter was seriously injured by the falling beam and suffered long-lasting health effects.
Yvonne Bertolet said her daughter told her that when her husband accidentally dropped a beam on her head, she was bending over to pick something up.
“She said if I had not gone to get whatever it was on the floor, I think it would have killed me on the spot. I don’t know what happened,” said the mother. “But the beam did fall on Toni and she did have a severe injury.”
That incident left Yvonne Bertolet uneasy about her daughter’s wellbeing.
“Later I told her ‘Toni, I don’t think I would be with him alone in a secluded place. I just don’t have a good feeling about it.’ ”
Toni Henthorn’s father, Bob Bertolet, told CBS4 that not long before his daughter’s death, she had spoken to her parents about financial issues between her and her husband.
“‘I don’t know where our money goes — we ought to be doing better,’ ” Bob Bertolet remembers his daughter saying. “And so we got suspicious of him and his braggadocio about making so much money. We thought he was inflating what he earned on his jobs.”
It was only later that the Bertolet family says Harold Henthorn admitted he never really worked at all.
Neighbors of Toni and Harold Henthorn along their Highlands Ranch cul de sac agreed that Harold Henthorn seemed nice, but was extremely controlling. They requested their names not be used. Others who were close friends of Harold Henthorn’s conceded he was extremely controlling.
However one friend of Harold Henthorn’s, Steve Reynolds, told CBS4 the accusations against Harold Henthorn are groundless.
“He adored her,” said Reynolds. “The FBI does not have one shred of evidence. They do not deserve this.”
“It was a horrible, horrible, terrible accident,” said Reynolds who described the federal investigation as a witch hunt.
As new questions emerge about the death of his latest wife, several people close to Harold Henthorn say he has repeatedly told them he expects to be indicted for Toni Henthorn’s death.
– Written by Brian Maass for CBSDenver.com