Fatal Economic Exploitation

This past December, Harold Henthorn was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of his wife Toni Henthorn. Originally, when Harold Henthorn reported the death of his wife off of a 140-ft cliff in Denver, Colorado, it was considered an accident.

Accidental deaths while hiking in the Colorado backcountry occur relatively frequently unfortunately. But, upon further investigation, the circumstances surrounding Toni's death became increasingly more suspicious. Prosecutors testified that Harold Henthorn had marked with an X on his map exactly where Toni fell and that he told conflicting stories about the fall. Fox 31 News reported that, "He told law enforcement and family members that he did not see her fall, but rather witnessed a blur while he was reading text messages. He told another witness both he and Toni were checking text messages and Toni had wandered too close to the edge. He told other witnesses that Toni was trying to take pictures and slipped." Harold Henthorn also claimed that he tried to give his wife mouth-to-mouth, but rescuers on the scene said her lipstick was intact.

Harold Henthorn's motivation? Toni's money. Toni Henthorn was a prominent eye doctor and surgeon while Harold Henthorn was only a self-proclaimed fundraiser for non-profits and churches. None of the connections that Harold claimed to have to these non-profits or churches were real, he simply lived off of Toni's fortunes. Moreover, Harold had taken out three life insurance policies on Toni, policies that would make him a $4.7 million richer were Toni to die unexpectedly. Further investigation into Harold's past reveals that the "accidental" death of his first wife is suspicious too and is now an open and active death investigation.

Photos that the couple took just hours before Toni Henthorn's death depict a happy married pair celebrating their 12th wedding anniversary with a fun hike. The seemingly genuine smile on Toni's face is misleading. Did she know that her husband did not really have a job and relied on her for economic support? Toni Henthorn's tragic case shows that women can be victims to economic abuse, even if they don't know it.

As I explain in my book "Ending Domestic Violence Captivity: A Guide To Economic Freedom" there is no abuse more potent than economic abuse. Although financial treatment is not commonly associated with domestic abuse, economic abuse is crucial to the abuser's ability to gain control over the victim. Although examples of economic abuse in my book exhibit relationships in which the abuser withheld financial resources from the victim, economic abuse is whenever the abuser uses financial power as a means of control. Harold Henthorn was completely economically dependent on his wife and utilized this dependence to take out 3 life insurances policies in her name, ensuring his financial stability after his death. These policies gave him control over her money and ultimately her life.


Acknowledgments: James Quiggle, Director of Communications at Coalition Against Insurance Fraud