crimesider

Will jury in cliff-fall murder case hear about death of wife #1?

Harold Henthorn and his first wife, Sandra

CBS Denver

DENVER - Attorneys for a Colorado man accused of shoving his second wife to her death off a cliff in Rocky Mountain National Park argued this week that details of his first wife's death should be barred from his trial.

Harold Henthorn's attorneys also asked a judge to keep prosecutors from discussing a prior occasion in 2011 on which Henthorn's second wife, Toni, was struck by a falling beam at their cabin. Henthorn was the only witness and prosecutors claim that was an unsuccessful attempt to kill her. His attorneys say it was an accident.

The two-day hearing, held in federal court in Denver, concluded Tuesday. The judge did not immediately rule on the issues.

Henthorn is charged with first-degree murder in Toni Henthorn's fatal fall, which took place during a September 2012 hike. Investigators have said he could not explain why he had a park map with an "X" drawn at the spot where she fell.

His murder trial is scheduled to begin in September.

Prosecutors argue there are glaring similarities between Toni Henthorn's death and that of Henthorn's first wife, Sandra Lynn Henthorn.

Sandra Lynn Henthorn was crushed when a car slipped off a jack while she and her husband were changing a flat tire in May 1995. Harold Henthorn was the only witness. Her death was initially ruled an accident, but investigators have since reopened the case.

CBS Denver reports a federal judge on Tuesday termed Sandra Lynn Henthorn's death, "pretty bizarre."

Federal prosecutor Bishop Grewell said Tuesday that the deaths of both Harold Henthorn's wives were "eerily similar" and that in both cases Harold Henthorn created risky situations, insured he was the only witness and had significant life insurance policies on his wives.

Grewell said Harold Henthorn chose remote locations in an effort to delay emergency response. He portrayed the accused as a "methodical, plotting serial wife killer."

Harold Henthorn's attorney, Craig Truman, however, argued against the jury hearing about the death of his client's first wife, saying the case is 20-years-old and no charges have been filed.