People are always fascinated by true crime. From novels to shows like Buzzfeed Unsolved. We’re very desensitized to it and we consume it pretty often. Everyone knows the stories of Ted Bundy and Jeffery Dahmer, but today I present to you the story of the “Black Widower”, Harold Henthorn.
Background on Harold Henthorn
Harold’s backstory might sound similar to a lot of other true crime cases. Harold Henthorn was born in the 1950s. He and his brothers were raised on the East Coast by their mother and father. His father was an alcoholic and very abusive to his wife and kids.
Lots of people thought that Henthorn was very charming. He could be seen as a lot to handle and very energetic. Many people compared him to a salesman. He also always wanted to be a family man, telling his friends he just didn’t want to be like his father. In 1982, Harold married his first wife, Sandra Lynn.
Marriage and Death of Harold’s First Wife
After their wedding, he convinced his new bride, Lynn, to move across the country to Colorado. Harold then started to change some of his behavior, growing more and more possessive of Lynn. He would listen to her phone calls. She could never have a private conversation. It got to the point where she would not take a call unless Harold was home. Lynn would claim they decided together that they should only speak to others when both Harold and Lynn were present.
In May of 1995, Harold and Lynn Henthorn went out for a drive. Harold said they needed to pull over to change a flat tire. So they pulled over, jacked the car up, and started the process of changing the tire (His story gets fuzzy at this point because he told so many different versions of it). According to Harrold Lynn was standing with him, but when he went to put the tire in the trunk the car came off the jack and he heard a scream. He ran to the front of the car to see that the car had crushed Lynn.
He flagged down a family that was driving past. The family pulled Lynn out and saw that she was still breathing. They tried to give her CPR before Harold started yelling at them not to touch her. Police arrived and took Lynn to a hospital where she died the next morning.
Her death was ruled an accident and the case was closed.
Marriage and Death of Harold’s Second Wife
After the death of his first wife, Lynn, Harold had a few relationships where all of the women who were involved with him reported him being creepy or controlling. Eventually, he started dating Toni Bertolet who he met online. They agreed to meet on New Year’s in 1999, and by the end of the weekend, they were engaged.
They got married 9 months later and he started to control Toni in the same way he had controlled Lynn. Henthorn pushed her to move across the country. He controlled her phone calls and communication, distancing her from her family. Harold also did not allow Toni access to the internet in their home. In 2005, Toni gave birth to their daughter. Harold Henthorn began to control everything about their daughter as well. He picked what and when she ate. He picked who she could talk to.
With the encouragement of her family, as she was the breadwinner, Toni started a separate bank account from Harold and got a new phone number that wasn’t connected to his. This scared Harold. In 2011, Harold, Toni, and their daughter went to their cabin for a vacation. One night, Harold asked Toni to help him clean outside. She bent down to pick something up and was struck in the back of the neck. It was a log that Harold Henthorn had thrown off the deck onto her. She was hospitalized. Toni’s mother told her that this wasn’t an accident and she shouldn’t be alone with Harold again.
In 2012, Toni and Harold went on a mountain hike to celebrate their 12-year anniversary. During this hike, Toni plummeted from one of the rocks and died. When her parents were told, her father’s first response was to claim that Harold Henthorn killed his daughter.
What Has Happened Since?
After Toni’s death, the National Park Service started to actually look into her death and her husband’s suspicious behavior. They found a map in his car of the mountain trail with an “X” at the place she fell. When asked about this map, he couldn’t explain it. Investigators also found that Harold had recently set up a large life insurance policy for Toni. Similar to his first wife, his story about Toni’s death kept changing. Eventually, his lies caught up to him. Harold Henthorn was put on trial for the murder of Toni Bertolet and found guilty. Harold was hoping to get a life insurance payout, but he got a life sentence instead. He has tried and failed to appeal this decision in two different ways. Hulu has since made a documentary about this case.
As horrific as true crime can be, it’s always nice to see these cases being solved. It scares me to think what Harold could have done to his daughter and future partners had he not been convicted.