A federal jury on Monday convicted a Colorado man of murdering his wife by shoving her from a cliff while they hiked in Rocky Mountain National Park on their 12th wedding anniversary.
Harold Henthorn, 59, had claimed that his wife fell 130 feet to her death while pausing to take a picture on Sept. 29, 2012. But after 10 hours of deliberations, the jury in Denver convicted him of first-degree murder. A life sentence is mandatory when he is formally sentenced in December.
Prosecutors said Henthorn killed Toni Henthorn, 50, to cash in on $4.7 million in life insurance policies she didn’t know existed. She was a successful ophthalmologist with a stake in her family’s oil business.
One of the most incriminating pieces of evidence was a map in Henthorn's possession that had been marked with an "X" on the area where his wife fell. Investigators said he was at a loss for words when they questioned him about it.
Prosecutors also said he scouted the remote area of the park nine times before bringing Toni with him.
"Today a jury in federal court has spoken – finding Harold Henthorn guilty of the First Degree Murder of his wife, Toni Henthorn. Henthorn, who has been in custody since his arrest, will not again experience life outside a prison cell," said U.S. Attorney John Walsh in a statement.
Foul play was not initially suspected in Toni’s death, but the prosecution wrote court documents alleging that Henthorn gave conflicting statements about what happened on the ledge before she fell. In one version, he said Toni wandered too close to the edge while checking text messages. In another, she slipped while taking a picture.
The defense called no witnesses during the trial.
Toni's mother said she forgave her former son-in-law, according to The Associated Press.
"Believe it or not, I forgive him for doing it. I feel for him and his family," said Yvonne Bertolet, who was in court.
Toni was Henthorn's second wife to die under suspicious circumstances. In 1995, his first wife, Sandra Henthorn, died when the jack propping up the couple’s Jeep Cherokee allegedly failed, crushing her beneath the car. She had been changing a flat tire on the side of the road. Henthorn was also the only witness to the incident that took Sandra’s life.
In opening statements two weeks ago, prosecutors alleged that Henthorn staged his first wife’s death, though he hasn’t been charged with a crime. Police reopened an investigation into her death after Henthorn was indicted for Toni’s death.
Calls to Henthorn’s attorney were not immediately returned.