DENVER (CBS4) – A federal jury convicted Harold Henthorn, 59, of first-degree murder Monday afternoon following about 10 1/2 hours of deliberation.
“I think he’s a pathological liar,” said juror Christine Vogel following the verdict. “Not a good person.”
Vogel said all the evidence in the trial “points to one thing. It all added up. No way she could have just slipped off.”
The jury chose to believe prosecutors, who said in September 2012 Harold Henthorn took his wife to Deer Mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park and shoved her off a cliff where she fell 130 feet to her death. Henthorn repeatedly claimed it was an accident, that his wife had slipped while he was examining his cellphone.
“The evidence was so clear,” said Dawn Roberts, a preschool director who sat on the jury. She said Henthorn’s relentless lies about a career he never had were damning. “That told me he’s a liar.” Roberts said some of the evidence presented in court suggested to her and other jurors that Harold Henthorn had also lied to his lawyer. Roberts said by the second day of the trial she was convinced of Henthorn’s guilt.
Toni Henthorn’s family had long believed Harold Henthorn was a calculated killer, determined to kill his ophthalmologist wife so he could pocket $4.7 million in life insurance.
Barry Bertolet, Toni Henthorn’s brother, said after the verdict that his family was “ecstatic. With this a life has been saved by this verdict.” He was referring to Toni and Harold Henthorn’s 10-year-old daughter, Haley. Barry Bertolet said he and his wife would now push forward with efforts to adopt the young girl.
“I think we have saved the life of Haley. I think Haley would have been in jeopardy in the future. I think the way he viewed women is that they were property. I don’t think he viewed them as people. When he got what he needed out of them they were discarded.”
Bertolet was referring to Harold Henthorn’s first wife, Lynn, who was killed in 1995 in a bizarre alleged accident on a rural highway in Douglas County. The couple’s Jeep fell on Lynn Henthorn during a tire change and she died the next day. Harold Henthorn claimed it was an accident and the Douglas County coroner and sheriff’s investigators agreed, closing the case as accidental within a week. Harold Henthorn received more than $600,000 in life insurance proceeds from his first wife’s death. But Douglas County investigators have now reopened that 20-year-old investigation and say they hope to present a compelling case to the district attorney.
Lynn Henthorn’s older sister, Lisanne Bales, said, “We do rejoice this man is never going to murder anyone else or father another child to live in his shadow. We think a perfect place is prison where he can hang out with murderers, thieves and liars.”
Lynn Henthorn’s brother, Kevin Rishell, said to him it was “very important” that Henthorn eventually face charges for Lynn Henthorn’s death.
Grace Rishell, Henthorn’s sister-in-law, told reporters, ”Harold’s love was lethal. If you got married to him you would probably be the next one.”
Four jurors told CBS4 that 11 of the 12 jurors likely would have voted for a guilty verdict immediately after the trial ended last Friday. But one female juror wanted to dissect the evidence at greater length. She “just needed clarification,” said juror Jerry Taboada.
Another juror who asked his name not be used told CBS4 he felt there was a “consistent pattern” to Henthorn’s lies. He said Henthorn’s tales about what happened “just didn’t make any common sense.”
Several jurors said they emerged from the trial convinced that Toni Henthorn’s wedding ring was a crucial piece of evidence. After the deadly fall, the diamond, valued at about $30,000, was missing from the ring. Despite investigators scouring the spot where Toni Henthorn died, the jewel was not immediately found. But eight months later, a National Park Service investigator returned to the spot and found the diamond sitting atop the dirt, right where Toni Henthorn had died.
Prosecutors suggested that Harold Henthorn — under pressure from investigators to explain what happened to the diamond — had taken the diamond and returned it to Rocky Mountain National Park to alleviate the pressure from investigators.
“He brought it back up there,” concluded juror Christine Vogel. She said there was “no way” the diamond simply reappeared.
Juror Taboada said Harold Henthorn “had to have” taken the diamond and then later returned it to the rugged spot where his wife died.
Vogel said she and other jurors were convinced that Harold Henthorn also killed his first wife.
“It was not an accident. It was planned,” said Vogel. The two cases were “so similar,” she said.
Henthorn will return to court Dec. 8 for sentencing. Henthorn’s brother, Rob, released a statement to CBS4 through an attorney saying, ”While only Harold and Toni will ever really know exactly what happened on Deer Mountain, we respect the process that has considered enormous evidence and the verdict the jury has reached.”
Henthorn’s attorney, Craig Truman, said he would not discuss the case outside of court, however he told reporters the case was not over yet suggesting a possible appeal.
As the guilty verdict was read, Harold Henthorn gently shook his head back and forth. As he was handcuffed and led from court, Eric Rishell, Lynn Henthorn’s brother, shouted “Goodbye Harold.”
Juror Dawn Roberts immediately crossed the courtroom and hugged Toni Henthorn’s mother after the jury delivered its guilty verdict.
“From a mom to a mom, I wanted to give her a hug. I felt so sorry for the family and she was a wonderful woman who didn’t deserve to have her life end so horribly.”