DENVER (CBS4) – The murder case against Harold Henthorn, 59, went to an eight-man, four-woman federal jury just after noon Friday.
Henthorn is charged with killing his second wife, Toni, by shoving her off a cliff in Rocky Mountain National Park in 2012 during an anniversary hike.READ MORE: COVID Burnout Rises Among Colorado's Public Health Leaders
“The honest opinion is I want to beat his ass’, said Dr. Barry Bertolet, Toni Henthorn’s brother, shortly after the jury began their deliberations. “I do think it’s an excellent case and I think Harold Henthorn is guilty and hope that’s the final verdict at the end of the day.”
Henthorn has pleaded not guilty, claiming Toni Henthorn’s death was an accident.
In closing arguments Friday morning prosecutor Valeria Spencer portrayed Henthorn as a man who killed his first wife in 1995, but was never charged in a case that was ruled an accident.
“He did it with Lynn and it worked so well … nice return on investment,” said Spencer. “This was a good day’s work.”
Henthorn collected more than $600,000 in life insurance from the death of Lynn Henthorn. She was killed when the couple’s Jeep fell off a jack during a tire change on a remote Douglas County road.
Spencer acerbically mocked Henthorn in her closing argument, calling him “Mr. Ego,” who supplied a never ending series of shifting stories at different times to different people about how his two wives perished. She said the Lynn Henthorn case was “lessons learned” for Harold Henthorn. And the lack of a criminal case emboldened him to kill his second wife 17 years later for the $4.7 million in life insurance he had taken out on her.
“Shoved her off a cliff and sayonara to you,” thundered Spencer.
She said Harold Henthorn’s explanation that his wife somehow slipped and fell off a rocky precipice was “like a bad Roadrunner cartoon.” She spent her “last moments with a man who is killing her,” said Spencer, who described Henthorn as a cold and heartless killer.
Prosecutor Suneeta Hazra told jurors Henthorn made nine trips to Rocky Mountain National Park before the fateful hike with his wife that resulted in her death.
“No one goes nine times,” said Hazra. “Unless you are looking for the best place to murder someone.
“This defendant killed Toni as a way to get rich,” accused Hazra. “He took Toni up there to cash in.”READ MORE: Organizations In Colorado Prepare For Influx Of Refugees From Afghanistan
Hazra said the last human touch Toni Henthorn felt was “a push that sent her cascading off a cliff.”
Craig Truman, Henthorn’s attorney, told the jury that prosecutors had no proof Henthorn had shoved his wife to her death.
“You must find the government has not met their burden. They have not proved that Toni died of murder,” said Truman.
However the defense attorney conceded Henthorn — who did not testify in his own defense — had lied repeatedly about numerous issues.
“Can’t tell the same story twice,” admitted Truman.
He said Henthorn will “say whatever comes into his head.” Truman admitted Henthorn lied for years about being employed when in fact he was not.
“He just says these things … it’s just nonsense,” conceded Truman. “He is incapable of telling the same story twice.”
But Truman suggested those character flaws did not make his client a killer.
As the closing arguments ended prosecutors proposed an answer to a nagging question: what happened to the diamond in Toni Henthorn’s wedding ring? After the 2012 fall the diamond was missing from the ring and was not immediately found. But eight months later, when a parks investigator returned to the scene, she found the diamond sitting on top of some dirt.
Prosecutor Spencer said what happened with the $30,000 diamond ring was evidence that Henthorn was a money grubbing wife killer. She said Henthorn saw the diamond as an “opportunity to make more money and he found it.” But she said after investigators continually asked Henthorn about the diamond following his wife’s death, which he called a “horrible accusation,” Spencer maintains Henthorn “put it back up there,” so it would be found.
Toni Henthorn’s brother Barry Bertolet said outside of court that he now believes his sister was preparing to leave Harold Henthorn just before her death.
“She was going to hang in there but she had probably reached her limit.”
Following closing arguments a male juror was told that he was an alternate juror and he was dismissed. The man began weeping when he was told he would not have a hand in deciding the fate of Harold Henthorn.MORE NEWS: Southbound Lanes Of I-25 Reopen After Closure RidgeGate Parkway For Crash