HIGHLANDS RANCH, Colo. (CBS4) – Harold Henthorn, the 58-year-old Highlands Ranch man arrested and charged last week in connection with the death of his second wife, has virtually no criminal record except for a bizarre case of underwear theft uncovered in an ongoing CBS4 Investigation.
“I’m aware of it,” Henthorn’s attorney, Craig Truman, said. “I imagine it will be addressed” during a Wednesday morning federal court appearance for Henthorn in which Henthorn is expected to argue he should be released from jail on bond while his case is proceeding.
A federal grand jury indicted Henthorn last Wednesday and he was arrested Thursday near his Highlands Ranch home on one count of first-degree murder related to the Sept. 29, 2012, death of his second wife, Dr. Toni Henthorn.
She plunged 50 feet to her death during an anniversary hike with her husband on Deer Mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park. Harold Henthorn told authorities his wife slipped and fell while taking a picture. But a grand jury indicted Henthorn saying his wife’s death was premeditated and the result of a deliberate act. Harold Henthorn was the only witness to what happened.
Prosecutors have said they expect to unveil some of their case against Henthorn during a detention hearing Wednesday in an effort to keep him behind bars. The government will need to lay out why they believe Henthorn is a flight risk and a danger to the public if he is released from federal custody.
His criminal history — or lack of one — will likely be raised and discussed. CBS4 found that aside from a couple of minor traffic violations, the only time he was in trouble with the law in Colorado before was in 1994. An Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Department arrest report obtained by CBS4 shows that on March 11, 1994, Henthorn was arrested for shoplifting $47.49 worth of “miscellaneous men’s underwear” from a JC Penney store in Littleton.
The report notes that “subject apprehended by store security.” He was charged with one count of theft under $100. CBS4 was not able to determine the ultimate outcome of the case. At the time, Henthorn listed himself on the report as “self- employed.” Truman declined to discuss the result of the underwear theft case but said, “All those matters will be addressed in court.”
“I’m blown away,” said Toni Henthorn’s brother, Todd Bertolet, when he learned of the underwear theft case. “He’s 38 years old, a married, religious person and he’s shoplifting underwear in JC Penney. To me that’s a red flag. It says a lot about his character. And I feel like the guy stealing underwear is the guy my sister should have known she was with. I think the guy that stole the underwear is the real person.”
The family of Toni Henthorn is hopeful that Federal Magistrate Judge Kathleen Tafoya keeps Henthorn behind bars.
“I think he’s a flight risk,” said Yvonne Bertolet, Toni Henthorn’s mother. “I think that’s why he has been setting up a fund to escape and if he had the opportunity, he would do that,” Bertolet learned of her son-in-law’s arrest last Thursday morning, on her 55th wedding anniversary. “It was a relief for me because I have not been able to face the death of my daughter. I keep asking myself, ‘Did it really happen?’ Every morning I ask, ‘Was that a dream?’ ”
She said more than two years after her daughter’s 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,” Yvonne Bertolet said.
She calls her daughter’s death “premeditated,” an opinion shared by other family members. “I think it’s all going to come back to bite him,” said Toni Henthorn’s brother, Dr. Barry Bertolet, during a recent trip to Denver. “My opinion is that he has done something very, very bad and has done it more than once.”
Bertolet is alluding to the equally freakish death of Henthorn’s first wife in rural Douglas County in 1995. Sandra Lynn Henthorn died when the couple’s car fell on her after Harold Henthorn said he pulled over because one of the tires felt “spongy.”
He told authorities that his wife crawled under the car — possibly to retrieve a lug nut — when the jack gave way and crushed her. Douglas County Sheriff’s investigators ruled the case an accident and closed it within a week with no criminal charges. They reopened their investigation early in 2013 after CBS4 began making
inquiries about the case. Harold Henthorn has not been criminally charged in connection with his first wife’s death.
Two civilians connected to the case raised doubts at the time about what happened. According to a Douglas County deputy’s report, Sandra Lynn Henthorn’s work supervisor said, “This seems suspicious to her,” wrote the deputy. And Pat Montoya, a witness who stopped to help at the time of the May 6, 1995, accident later asked deputies “if we arrested the husband yet? No way that woman got under the car like that,” Montoya said.
A source familiar with the death of Henthorn’s first wife told CBS4 that Henthorn and his first wife each had life insurance policies on each other valued at $300,000. Henthorn explained to investigators he needed a policy on his wife because she was scheduled to undergo surgery later in the year.
His second wife, Toni Henthorn, also had millions of dollars of life insurance. CBS4 previously reported Toni Henthorn had three life insurance policies, each valued at $1.5 million for a cumulative amount of $4.5 million. Someone submitted a claim for one of those $1.5 million policies less than 36 hours after Toni Henthorn’s death, before any memorial service had been held for the well-liked ophthalmologist. Probate records do not specify who made the claim, but none of the life insurance money has been paid out.
Approached by CBS4 multiple times since 2012, Harold Henthorn has continually declined to comment on his wives’ deaths, referring questions to his attorney, who also declined to discuss specifics of the case. Henthorn has told neighbors and friends he is innocent. “I want to cooperate with you,” Henthorn told CBS4. “But I know you spoke with my attorney and ask you to speak to him.”
His lawyer told CBS4, “I’m sure when all the facts are known in this difficult and complicated case that justice will be done.”
As Harold Henthorn heads to court Wednesday, Toni Henthorn’s family expressed hope that he remains behind bars and said they still grieve every day.
“We had pledged in the very beginning to be Toni’s voice to seek justice for Toni,” said her father, Bob Bertolet.
Her brother, Barry, said while the indictment and arrest pleased the family, “We’re not getting Toni back so there’s not going to be a happy ending,”
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