Testimony begins in trial of man accused in wife’s cliff fall at Rocky Mountain National Park

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DENVER -- The trial began Tuesday in the case of a Highlands Ranch man who is accused of pushing his wife off a cliff in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Harold Henthorn, 58, is also being investigated for the death of his first wife, who died 20 years ago.

At first, the current case looked like an accident. Henthorn told investigators that his wife, Toni Henthorn, had slipped and fell 140 feet to her death in September 2012 as they were hiking on Deer Mountain Trail to celebrate their 12th wedding anniversary.

But Toni’s friends and family were suspicious that Henthorn’s stories didn’t add up. Prosecutors charge Henthorn’s motive was to get his hands on his wife’s insurance money.

She had been an eye doctor and had policies totaling about $4.5 million.

Henthorn’s first wife, Sandra Lynn Henthorn, died when the couple’s car fell on her as she was changing a tire in May 1995 on the side of Colorado 67 near Sedalia. Henthorn was the only witness.

That death was first ruled an accident but investigators have ruled the cause of death as undetermined.

"Henthorn told several conflicting stories about how Toni died,” prosecutors wrote in court papers. “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 that 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.

"Henthorn said that he and Toni initially left the trail to find a romantic spot and because of the crowds that day. They then hiked to the lower knob to see wild turkeys, for an intimate moment, or to scout future hikes to take with their seven-year-old daughter.

"But a map found in Henthorn’s car suggested these detours were not spontaneous: it marked the spot near where Toni fell with a pink X.Henthorn had extensively scouted the hike. Contrary to what he told law enforcement, he made nine different trips to the area around Rocky Mountain National Park that summer. And in the fortnight before their anniversary, Henthorn had hiked six trails to find the perfect one for the trip.”

Henthorn is charged with first-degree murder.

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