Trial Begins for Man Accused of Shoving Wife Off Cliff
Harold Henthorn's lawyer says deaths of 2 wives were accidental
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 8, 2015 11:45 AM CDT
This photo shows Harold Henthorn and his wife, Toni.   (AP Photo/Bertolet Family)

(Newser) – A man accused of pushing his second wife to her death off a cliff in Colorado's Rocky Mountain National Park might have killed his first wife in what also appeared to be a freak accident nearly 20 years earlier, prosecutors allege. They will make that argument when a federal trial for Harold Henthorn, 58, opens today. Investigators say he carefully plotted and planned to shove his second wife, Toni Henthorn, 140 feet off a cliff in a remote area the couple had been hiking on Sept. 29, 2012. Henthorn had taken her to the national park to celebrate their 12th wedding anniversary. As they wandered off the trail, Toni, 50, paused to take a photo. She tumbled face first over the ledge, according to autopsy reports. Henthorn could not explain why he had a park map with an "X'' drawn at the spot where Toni fell, prosecutors say.

Henthorn was the only witness to his wife's fall—which prosecutors say was eerily reminiscent of the death of his first wife, Sandra Lynn Henthorn, who was crushed when a car slipped off a jack while they were changing a flat tire in 1995. Henthorn hasn't been charged in his first wife's death, but police reopened the investigation after a grand jury indicted him on a first-degree murder count in Toni Henthorn's fatal fall. A judge ruled prosecutors can show evidence of the first wife's death during Henthorn's trial. They'll also be able to discuss an earlier incident in which a 20-foot beam fell on Toni Henthorn while the couple was working at their mountain cabin. She told her mother that if she had not bent over, the beam would have killed her; Toni had three life insurance policies totaling $4.5 million. Henthorn's defense attorney has argued that the two deaths were unfortunate accidents.