Black Widower: The True Story of Harold Henthorn

Most people have heard of the famous cases of the “Black Widows”, of the infamous wives who kill their husbands. Names such as Karla Faye Tucker, Marjorie Ann Orbin, and Betty Lou Beets bring to mind a vision of the elusive female serial killer, leaving a string of dead husbands in their wake. But a man who serial kills his wives? That is far less heard of. But notorious killer Harold Henthorn now sits in prison for just such a charge, accused and convicted of being a real-life Black Widower.


The Spider Spins His Web

When single divorcee, Toni Bertolet came across the profile of successful nonprofit fundraiser Harold Henthorn on a dating site, he seemed like a dream come true, little did she know he would end up becoming her worst nightmare. After chatting online for a few weeks, the two finally met up in person on New Year’s Eve. It was love at first sight for Toni and the larger-than-life Harold Henthorn, and within nine short months, the two were married.

Friends and family of Toni’s described Harold as somewhat of an odd character with a distinct “used car salesman” personality as though he was “always trying to sell himself.”But by the time the wedding rolled around the family’s concerns began to dissipate as Toni seemed happier than ever. Soon the couple’s joy expanded even more as they welcomed their first child, a daughter they named Haley.

But it wasn’t long before friends and family members began to see cracks in the picture-perfect facade of the Henthorn family. They watched helplessly as Harold’s behaviors quickly escalated beyond “quirky” as his attempts to dominate Toni and their young daughter Haley became even more outlandish. Harold set up several video monitors in his young daughter’s bedroom and began to regulate Toni’s calls from friends or family, forcing them to be on speaker phone and only while he was present.  And even more concerning, the family’s financials seemed to be in chaos. Despite Harold claiming to own a successful business and his wife working as an ophthalmologist with a flourishing practice, the couple continuously had to ask family members for an influx of cash.  So when Toni fell to her death in September of 2013, her family was understandably suspicious. While the couple had been on a hiking trip in the Rocky Mountains for their 12th wedding anniversary, Harold claimed Toni had simply slipped off a steep rockface. But Toni’s family wasn’t buying it. And neither were investigators. It wasn’t long before they realized that all of the pieces surrounding Harold’s life and Toni’s death, simply did not fit.

The Web of Lies Revealed

During the investigation, covered by the Hulu true crime documentary Wild Crime, one by one, all of Harold’s dark secrets came to light. For years Harold had bragged about being a wealthy non-profit fundraiser with his own company when the reality was, the company did not exist. Harold had not made any money in over a decade. So how was he able to keep up his facade of homes in Colorado, nice cars, and expensive clothes? The answer turned out to be even more shocking than the question.  It turned out that Toni was not Harold’s first dead wife.

Years before Harold had been married to a woman named Lynn Rishell Henthorn who also had died under mysterious circumstances in May of 1995. In yet another freak accident in Harold’s life, his Jeep Cherokee had somehow fallen off of two car jacks during a late night tire change, crushing his wife Lynn beneath it. While Lynn’s family had also been suspicious, no charges had ever been brought. Harold walked away with a healthy sum from Lynn’s multiple life insurance policies totaling over $600,000, which he used to live a lavish lifestyle. Until the funds ran out that is, at which point he decided it was time to marry again. Enter stage left, successful oil millionaire daughter, Toni Bertolet.  Within a few months, Harold had married her, and within a few years, she was dead. That left Harold as the sole beneficiary of her multiple insurance policies, totaling a shocking $1.5 million.

Wash The Spider Out

The investigation into Harold Henthorn raised enough questions that the case of his first wife’s death, was re-opened. Investigators attempted to re-create the series of events on the night of Lynn’s death, as described by Harold and were unable to.  Which meant Harold wasn’t telling the whole truth and not just about his first wife’s death. Investigators also discovered that the off-trail spot where his recent wife Toni had “slipped” had actually been scouted and visited by Harold for months leading up to her death. That left investigators with two dead wives, one very rich husband, and no good explanations.

Finally, the case found its way to trial in 2015 and prosecutors were able to include the information on Henthorn’s first wife’s death in the case of his second wife, Toni Henthorn. The prosecutors felt that the additional evidence was too relevant to ignore, and apparently, the jury agreed. Harold Henthorn was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of his wife, Toni Henthorn. While the case of his first wife Lynn was not technically taken to trial, Lynn’s family felt that because of her inclusion in Toni’s case, in a way, she had finally gotten her day in court.  Henthorn’s appeals have since been exhausted and he will remain in prison for what is left of his life, forever labeled as the infamous Black Widower.


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