Prosecution Accuses Man Of Killing His Wives To Collect Life Insurance

| by Meg O'Connor

The murder trial of a man accused of pushing his wife off of a cliff to her death in Colorado's Rocky Mountain National Park began Tuesday in a federal court. Now, prosecutors say Harold Henthorn, 58, may have also murdered his first wife.

Investigators say that Henthorn meticulously planned his wife, Toni Henthorn's death, and intentionally shoved the 50-year-old about 130 feet off of a cliff in a remote area of the mountainous park where the two had been hiking on Sept. 29, 2012, the New York Post reported.

Henthorn claims he took his wife to the national park to celebrate their twelfth wedding anniversary. What he could not explain, however, was why a park map found inside his vehicle had an "X" marking the exact spot where Toni plummeted to her death.

Federal prosecutors say that Henthorn murdered his wife in a plot to collect $4.5 million in life insurance money.

After a grand jury indicted Henthorn on a first-degree murder count for Toni's fatal fall, police reopened the 1995 investigation into the death of his first wife, Sandra Lynn Henthorn.

Henthorn was the only witness to both his first and his second wife's deaths. Sandra was crushed to death after the couple's car slipped off a jack while she was under the car changing a flat tire in a remote area south of Denver in 1995. Sandra also died 12 years into her marriage to Henthorn.

At the time, investigators ruled that Sandra's death was an accident, allowing Henthorn to collect a $496,000 life insurance policy.

“These deaths were not accidents,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Suneeta Hazra said on Tuesday, according to the New York Post. Hazra also pointed out that Henthorn gave inconsistent accounts of what had happened in both cases, and said that another incident in which a 20-foot beam fell on Toni while the couple was doing work on their cabin in the mountains was also a carefully crafted attempt to murder his wife for the insurance money.

Henthorn's friends told investigators that before Henthorn married his second wife, he had studied the financial situations of several women and asked his friends which one he should marry.

Henthorn is charged with first-degree murder and faces a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole, as well as a maximum $250,000 fine. 

Sources: New York Post, Reuters

Photo credit: CBS News via KCNC, CBS News