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tv   Dateline NBC  NBC  February 26, 2016 9:00pm-11:01pm EST

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here's this woman smiling, about to take a hike for her anniversary. there's nothing you can see from those photos that they took that would ever begin to suggest how it would all end. it's chilling. >> she was a beloved doctor, amazing mom, sunday school teacer. >> she'd given so much love to others. finally, she'd found it for herself. a handsome widower touched by tragedy. >> his first wife died in a car accident. >> my heart went out for him. >> now he and the doctor were bound for adventure. a surprise weekend away. >> i was excited for her. >> a romantic hike to a remote mountain spot. the scenery was breath-taking. the danger was, too. >> my wife has fallen from a
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rock. >> an accidental fall, and she was gone. >> i remember going, what? >> my heart sank. i fell to my knees. >> so why did it seem so suspicious? >> there's something going on here. >> his first wife died. it just clicked. this was not an accident. >> two wives, two deaths, two mysteries. >> nobody saw him push toni off that cliff. >> he wouldn't do that. why would he? >> tragic. horrible. cruel. i was broken. >> i'm lester holt. and this is "dateline." >> i'm roped in at 10,000 feet up. >> tonight andrea canning takes us "over the edge." >> my name's anna kate, and i'm 9 years ode. i'm in fourth grade. >> reporter: anna kate once had an aunt named toni.
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they lived a few states apart but were never more than a phone call or a letter away. >> dear aunt toni, how are you? i have no homework. we finished "little pear" eight days till christmas. i'm so excited. i love you. anna kate. >> reporter: she still writes her letters even though toni can no longer respond. >> dear aunt toni, are you enjoying it in heaven? i miss you very much. i read a book about heaven. it must be great. love, your niece, anna kate. >> reporter: anna kate was 7 when her aunt died. it was sudden, scary and heartbreaking. so she took out an old shoe box, decorated it and filled it with thoughts of aunt toni. >> now she's dead. now we can't see her again. and our lives will never be the same again. >> reporter: the ripple effect of toni's death was huge. she was a respected doctor, an ophthalmologist who had a thriving practice first in jackson, mississippi, and later
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in denver, colorado. a devout christian who sang in her church choir. a mother to a little girl named haley. a wife to man named harold, and the older sister to anna kate's dad todd bertolet. this story is about toni and what happened to her one bright sunny day high up in the mountains. >> 911. what's the address of your emergency? >> i need an alpine mountain rescue team immediately. >> reporter: it's also about how secrets long buried sometimes don't stay that way. where did toni fit into your family? >> she was the middle between two brothers. sometimes she thought that was an advantage and sometimes she thought it was a disadvantage being an only girl with two brothers. obviously we're not going to sit down and play barbies with her. you know, we needed the extra wide receiver during the backyard football game.
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and she had to oblige us. >> reporter: did it turn her into a little bit of a tomboy? >> i wouldn't say she was a tomboy, but she was a great athlete. of course, she could do anything she put her mind to. >> reporter: toni bertolet grew up with her two brothers around natchez, mississippi. the epitome of the old south. she was ambitious academically and athletically and yet -- did toni embrace the hair and the makeup and sort of the things that you would think of as a southern belle? >> we went to ole miss i mean, it's coat and tie and sunday dresses for football games. >> reporter: no sweatpants? >> no, no. >> not to go out. >> she would never go out in public in sweatpants, never. >> reporter: toni did have one flaw when it came to being a belle. >> when i first got to college, she felt like, you know, i was a little bit too skinny and needed to bulk up a little bit. and so she decided she was going to come over and cook some fried chicken. >> reporter: well, mississippi's
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the place to be for that. >> mississippi. and every southern lady ought to be able to cook some fried chicken. and little did she know that, you know, when you took it out of the freezer you'd have to let it thaw. >> reporter: frozen fried chicken aside, toni was someone who set goals and made them happen. after college she went to medical school, and in 1988 graduated in the top 10% of her class. then she settled into a new practice and a new marriage with a young dentist. but the woman who could do it all couldn't save a relationship that wasn't working. she tried. but after seven years the marriage ended. >> i don't think my sister took failure well. and so i think that was a disappointing time in her life. >> reporter: todd's wife rhonda remembers how toni continued to thrive at work, but her love life stalled. >> her career was extremely important, and so there was a time issue there. she didn't have a lot of time to probably go places to meet guys.
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she went to church, and she went to her job. and to be honest, i really don't think that there was very good pickings possibly. >> reporter: and the clock was ticking when it came to starting a family. so in her late 30s, toni turned to a place many do to find a mate -- the internet. she chose a christian dating site. finding a man who shared her faith was very important to her. she didn't tell her little brother or his wife rhonda right away about her online adventure. but she did share her secret with her good friend allison talley. did she give you updates on how it was going and if she was meeting anybody? >> i didn't really ask. but i did know that she had met a couple of guys. >> reporter: then toni met the one. >> handsome guy, little bit older than her, charming, incredibly charming. just extended a hand immediately and well-dressed and very polished and well spoken, very professional looking. >> reporter: his name was harold henthorn.
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according to his dating profile, he lived in colorado and worked as a consultant to non-profits. he didn't smoke, rarely drank, and he said he was a planner. eventually harold flew out to jackson to meet toni in person. and with them both being methodical types, they devised a formula for lasting love. >> they had come up with a system for compatibility. and it was five cs. and i don't remember what they all stood for. compatibility was one of them. christianity was one of them. >> reporter: chemistry, maybe? >> chemistry was one of them. when they met for the first time, they would know if the chemistry was there. they'd confirmed four out of the five before their first meeting. >> reporter: so when they met it was combustion. >> maybe that was one of them. >> reporter: toni ticked off her cs. then she introduced harold to everyone. first impression? >> way more outgoing, way more vocal than she -- she was quiet. i thought, this is great for her. this gets her out of her shell. and it gives her somebody to do
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some really fun things with. >> reporter: harold was a widower, and told the bertolets he had waited a long time for another chance at love. >> his first wife died in a car accident. >> my heart went out to him. i was like, wow, he deserves his happiness, you know. and if it's with toni, then that's awesome. >> you know, he said he had been lonely. >> reporter: harold's friend, kim laferriere, had been best friends with harold's first wife, lynn. what did harold tell you about this new woman in his life, toni? >> he didn't tell me a lot. but he did tell me that he really liked her. >> reñorter: after lynn died, kim and harold remained close. now he wanted kim to meet the new woman in his life. >> i felt like i couldn't talk about lynn anymore which i understood that. but i was happy that he moved on. and i felt like it was time and that he was starting a new life. >> reporter: so now harold, the planner, as he'd said in his dating profile, was ready.
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on valentine's day 2000, he set out to orchestrate the perfect proposal. harold really studied the jackson area to find out the perfect place to propose. and he found this beautiful place in jackson that we all love. >> reporter: and how excited was she to tell you her news? >> very. she was excited. and she had a beautiful ring. it was a nice ring. and just -- she was very happy. very happy that it seemed like it was all coming together and she was going to be very happy. >> reporter: on september 30th, 2000, less than a year after they had met in person, toni bertolet married harold henthorn in a big church wedding in jackson. >> she looked fantastic, happy, glowing. >> it was a lovely day. it was beautiful. >> it looked like the first day of the rest of her life. it really did. >> reporter: the future was bright. toni's career had been her focus for so long. harold promised something different. >> marry me. i'm wealthy. i can take you away from, you know, your career and, you know,
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working all the time. and allow you to be the mother, which is the main thing she wanted to be. >> reporter: her knight in shining armor? >> that's it. >> reporter: but it's amazing how life has a way of intruding on our fairy tales. when we come back, a romantic surprise. >> hi. >> she is like, what's going on? and he says, you know, we're going away for the weekend. >> a whirlwind escape to the mountains. >> she couldn't say no. he had it all worked out. >> it seemed toni's thoughtful husband had planned everything. almost. >> i need an alpine mountain rescue team immediately. ♪ fruit. nuts.
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after toni and harold got married, friends and loved ones knew the couple wanted to start a family. but it turned out to be for the first two years of their marriage their careers kept them apart. toni in mississippi, harold in colorado. and when toni was finally able to move west to be with harold -- >> they suffered a lot of fertility issues and had
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miscarriages. it was a sadness to her. >> reporter: back in mississippi, toni's brother todd and sister-in-law rhonda were also struggling to have a baby. but then after years of disappointment for both couples, all their prayers were answered. >> we both ended up pregnant at the same time. >> reporter: that must have been a really happy time given what you went through to get there. >> absolutely. >> all of sudden, you know, good news here, good news here, and, you know, get ready because, you know, you're going to have a houseful. >> reporter: in june of 2005, toni and harold welcomed their baby girl, haley. by then, todd and rhonda already had anna kate. when the girls were a little over a year old, the henthorns came to mississippi and the who cousins got to meet. >> it was a very happy occasion. and i do remember toni just being so happy to have haley, so -- and so was harold.
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>> reporter: and although toni had always wanted to be a mom, it was pretty clear harold was mr. mom. >> he was the one in charge. the diaper change. most women have to beg their husbands to do that kind of stuff. he was the one -- he was like a nanny. >> reporter: hands-on dad? >> yeah. he was in charge of everything about that child. >> reporter: with harold such a doting father, toni was able to go back to work. she soon built a thriving practice in colorado. >> she was a beloved doctor. she had a really great bedside manner. >> reporter: tammi abruscatto managed the practice. >> she took time. she treated her patients as a whole body not just their eyes. she was interested in their family life. she had the good old-fashioned southern hospitality. >> reporter: tammi saw how committed toni was to her patients. sometimes it was hard to get her to leave the office. so tammi was charmed when one day in september harold asked her for help. >> you get a phone call out of
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the blue from harold. >> yes, about two weeks before their anniversary he phoned and said, hey, tammi, i want to surprise toni for our anniversary. can you help me out? >> reporter: it was their 12th wedding anniversary. harold wanted to celebrate with a surprise trip to one of colorado's wonders, rocky mountain national park. so you're being really sneaky in all of this. >> i am. i mean we'd all love for our husbands to call and do something fun like that. so i made her schedule so that she could be done and out of the office by 3:00, but it looked like she would be there till 5:00. >> reporter: the big day was september 28, 2012. >> he came into the office, and the other girls thought it would be fun to really surprise her. so they put him in an exam room. >> reporter: a colleague shot this cell phone video. >> so she picks up a chart, walks into the room like she normally would, and then there's her husband. and she's like, what's going on? and he says, you know, we're
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going away for the weekend, happy anniversary. and she's like, no, no, no, no. i can't do that. and he says, you can. tammi fixed the schedule so you're ready to leave. >> reporter: this was well orchestrated. >> yes. >> reporter: this anniversary plan. >> yes. >> reporter: harold thought of everything. he hired baby-sitters for haley. he'd even packed toni's clothes. >> she couldn't say no. i mean, she just, you know, he had it all worked out, so off they went. >> reporter: harold henthorn, the consummate planner, had pulled it off. now the perfect anniversary weekend could begin. the couple left denver on a friday afternoon and headed north. harold booked a room at the stanley, a historic beautiful hotel in estes park. >> my name is jack torrance. >> reporter: famous for inspiring stephen king's "the shining." >> thank you. >> reporter: he scheduled an early dinner so they could turn in early. it was a romantic weekend, after all. then saturday afternoon, they
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set out for rocky mountain national park to go on a hiking trail harold had scouted out a few months earlier. but just about 24 hours in, the perfect weekend turned tragic. >> 911, what's the address of your emergency? >> hello, my name is harold henthorn, and i'm in the rocky mountain national park. >> okay. >> i need an alpine mountain rescue team immediately. >> reporter: it was just before 6:00 and harold needed help urgently. >> my wife has fallen from a rock on the north summit of deer mountain. on the deer mountain trail. and she's in really critical condition. >> reporter: harold told the 911 operator that toni had fallen from the edge of a cliff. >> we need to be sure that you know my location first. i have really bad cell coverage. >> okay. >> okay. i'm on deer mountain. >> reporter: immediately, the park launched a ranger who was also a trained emt, but the only way to get there from the trail head was on foot, and that would take hours. >> is she conscious and breathing?
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>> reporter: no, she's not. she's not been conscious. she is breathing. >> reporter: harold, desperate, pleaded for a rescue helicopter. >> here's the thing. i will pay any and all expenses for a helicopter. i don't care if it's private, i don't care if it's commercial, i will pay any and all expenses right now if you drop a paramedic down here. >> reporter: the operator tried to explain that no aircraft could do what harold was asking, not at that altitude over that terrain. >> they can't like drop somebody out of the helicopter. >> from a 10-foot rope? >> no, sir. that has not been done in my experience. >> reporter: harold knew toni's situation was grave. >> she needs to get out of here. she needs to get to the hospital. >> reporter: harold didn't stay on with the 911 operator. he hung up because he was worried his cell phone battery might die. then at 6:16, he texted toni's older brother barry, a cardiologist, back in mississippi. "barry, urgent. toni is injured in estes park. fall from rock. critical. requested flight for life. emt rangers on way.
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will be dark when arrive. pray." todd got a call from his brother barry. >> barry said that toni had been in an accident and that he was being texted the vital signs, and it didn't look good. you know, he said, i don't think she's going to make it. >> reporter: back on the mountain, the rescuers were having trouble finding the henthorns. >> they're asking you to put as many bright items out as possible to see if they can see you. anybody near you, sir? >> no. >> reporter: the henthorns were all alone and time was running out. the sun was setting. so harold lit a fire. >> i've started a small fire in a completely enclosed rock enclosure with wet moss on it thinking you can see the smoke. >> reporter: now in the dark, the henthorns were off the grid. and still waiting. just before 7:00, an hour after harold's first call to 911, an operator called back to talk him through cpr. >> hello?
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>> harold, this is julia, estes park police department. they tell me you need some assistance doing some cpr. >> any help you could give me would be good. >> okay. is she awake? >> no, unconscious. >> okay. i'm going to go through my questions really fast with you. is she breathing? >> her breathing has gone from ten to five -- and nothing, to zero. >> okay. what i'm going to do now is i'm going to count for you as you go through the breaths. i've got my computer on and i can count. so we can make sure we're getting that blood flow. >> reporter: but harold said he wanted to keep the line free. >> i've got to turn off because the rangers have to find me. >> okay. i will let you go. call 911 any time and you get me, okay? >> reporter: harold continued to text toni's brother with details, none were good. "can't find a pulse." he texted a friend asking if he could drive up to rocky mountain national park to pick him up. he called back dispatch. >> you guys have an eta on the rangers? >> there's actually a ranger in the area. if you could start using your whistle.
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he's trying to find you. >> okay, okay. great. thanks a lot. >> reporter: he texted barry again "cpr. help 10 minutes out." finally, 8:09 pm -- more than two hours after harold called 911 -- the ranger arrived prepared for a rescue, but there was no rescue to be made. coming up -- >> i just said is she okay? and i fell to my knees. >> exactly what had happened up there on the mountain? >> this is a spot that most people would be too nervous to approach. >> the investigation begins. so i can love my hair longer. pantene. strong is beautiful. get even faster results with pantene expert, our most... ...intensely concentrated pro-v formula.
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it was supposed to be the perfect weekend in the rockies, but the tragedy struck during a hike. toni henthorn tumbled off the edge of a steep cliff. 8:41 mountain time, her husband harold texted her family two horrible words. "she's gone." >> i'd never seen my dad cry. never. and i'd say for probably the next two weeks -- >> all the time. >> -- just constant. >> reporter: she was his little girl. >> uh-huh. i can tell you it doesn't matter, you know, what age they are, you know, a parent can never accept it. >> reporter: toni's friends at work couldn't believe it either.
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>> i got a call from christy at our office and all she said is, tammi, toni fell. >> reporter: what did you think when she said she fell? >> i just said, is she okay? no, she died. and i fell to my knees. and my husband said, oh, my gosh, what's going on? and i said, dr. henthorn fell off a cliff. >> reporter: everyone was heartbroken for toni. harold. and, most of all, the henthorns' 7-year-old daughter haley. >> i put myself on the mountain and at the moment that she probably knew, well, this is it, you know. i know her thoughts were of haley. >> reporter: about 150 people die in national parks each year. in rocky mountain national park, the leading cause of death is falling. >> before i wrote this book, i didn't know that the national park had investigators. >> reporter: journalist michael fleeman covered the death of toni henthorn.
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>> i just thought the extent of their police work was to tell you to put out a rogue campfire or something, or don't park here, don't feed the bears. >> reporter: but there's more to it. every death in our national parks is investigated. and in toni's case the same emt ranger who came to rescue her now switched roles from rescuer to cop. >> people wear different hats at the park service. the guy who schlepped out there in the middle of the night and tried to both save toni's life and get harold off the mountain the next day became an investigator. >> reporter: the ranger set out to learn everything he could about toni, harold and what happened on that quiet mountain. harold told him the couple had set out around 1:45 on the deer mountain trail as part of their romantic anniversary weekend. you can see in this selfie harold took that the henthorns seemed to be having fun, on a track that many would find challenging. >> hikers call it a moderate
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hike. but these are hikers who are, you know, scaling the sides of mountains. >> reporter: but toni and harold kept at it, following the trail as it snaked up and around the mountain to a point where it flattened out. it was a beautiful fall day here in the rockies, much like this. harold said he and toni wanted to be alone. it was their anniversary, after all. so right about here, they got of the trail and headed into the woods. most people stay on the trails in national parks, that's what the park service wants visitors to do. but harold told the ranger the trail was so crowded that they left it to be alone. although toni was a lifelong athlete, she had knee issues since her basketball playing days in high school. but if the hike was tough for her, it probably seemed worth it when the trees opened up to this. around 3:30 toni and harold ate lunch right here, with this amazing view as their backdrop. once they finished eating lunch, they continued further into the back country. before they set out, harold took
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this photo of toni. she's smiling, relaxed. it doesn't look like she had any inkling that anything bad was to come. harold told the ranger the ridge where they had lunch wasn't private enough. so they climbed down these loose rocks looking for another spot. at this point they were several hours into their hike with not much daylight left and not much time to keep a 7:00 p.m. dinner reservation. they ended up on a small, flat area with not a lot of wiggle room and steep drops all around. it's where this pictures was taken at 5:00 p.m. it's one of the last pictures on toni's camera. rangers believe toni fell from right here, 128 feet down. this is a spot that most people would be too nervous to approach without the proper safety gear, but harold said toni was trying to capture the perfect picture of some wild turkeys and apparently just got too close to the edge. harold said by the time he scrambled down the mountain and found his wife,
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toni wasn't talking. she was barely breathing, and she was lying in an awkward position. so he told the ranger, he pulled her to a flatter area. then he made that first call to 911. >> 911, what's the address of the emergency? >> i need an alpine mountain rescue team immediately. >> reporter: but there never was a rescue. toni died too soon. her friend allison talley says in the days after toni died, everyone's focus was dealing with their grief while trying to help haley and harold. he's the greefbing widower with the young daughter. >> right. there was no shortage of people over there trying to help and be in the home. we talked to him several times and every conversation had that element in it of how wonderful all his friends and his church family were being to him. >> reporter: within a day of toni's death, harold reached out to someone who had always been there for him, kim laferriere. >> i got a text at 10:30 on sunday night. toni fell.
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my bride is gone. and i remember looking at this going what? and i ran upstairs. my husband was asleep. and i said, toni's gone. >> reporter: kim found the tragedy almost unimaginable. remember, she'd known harold for decades and had been best friends with his first wife lynn who died 17 years earlier. >> i just felt so sad. i felt like i could not believe that toni was gone. it just felt like i wish i could have changed it. i wish i could have brought her back. >> reporter: but soon for some people sorrow would be coupled with another feeling -- suspicion. coming up -- >> my husband said, we can't let this go. please investigate this. >> turns out this was not the first time toni's life had been in danger. >> he made a joke and laughed it off. did you hear i almost killed toni?
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that she had fallen off a cliff to her death, they all realized they shared the same uneasy feeling and it centered on toni's husband harold. charming, outgoing, a hands-on dad. harold was all of those things. but now toni's friend allison remembered what toni had said years earlier when the couple was struggling with infertility. how was harold through the bad times, when she was losing the baby? was he very supportive? >> i asked her how this was going, that this had to be incredibly stressful. and she said, her exact comments -- i'll never forget these words. life with harold is hard. >> reporter: brother todd and sister-in-law rhonda also looked back and thought how difficult it could be to get toni on the phone without harold listening in. >> you call their home number, you call her cell phone number, and you could call his cell phone number. >> reporter: and he would answer? >> he would answer. >> when we spoke to her it was never just her. it was always him and her in the
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background. >> reporter: tammi recalled how harold used to come into toni's office as if he owned the place and how in his presence, toni, the self-confident doctor, seemed to melt away somehow. >> she said i've just learned long ago it's just better to let harold be right. >> reporter: did that make you kind of sad? >> that made me very sad, and that's when i really thought things are not right. >> reporter: tammi says that even though toni seemed to adore her daughter haley, she often gave up mommy time, staying late at the office instead. >> we would be done. patients gone, staff gone. and she would still be on her computer. but it wasn't work-related. it was playing games. and so we thought, that's so odd. why does she stick around the office? we started to think that maybe she just didn't want to go home and maybe because of harold. >> reporter: if there was trouble in the marriage toni never said so directly. not to friends, not even to family.
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todd and rhonda worried maybe she was afraid to say too much. >> i think he had held control over toni with haley, you know? his parents heard conversation that they weren't meant to hear that he held, you know, divorce over her head. "i'll divorce you." >> yeah. and you won't see haley and, you know, that kind of thing. >> reporter: that's probably the one thing that would cut the deepest with her. >> right. >> reporter: not being able to see her daughter. >> right. >> reporter: and then there was a very strange episode that occurred a year before toni's death at a mountain cabin she and harold owned. did she tell you at all about the accident with the beam at the cabin? >> no. but harold did. he made a joke that he almost killed toni at the cabin. and he, you know, laughed it off that, did you hear i almost killed toni? >> reporter: it happened around 10:00 p.m. toni, despite the late hour, was under the deck. >> she said that she was cleaning underneath the deck and harold was walking across and as
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he walked across, a beam came loose and fell directly on the back of her head. >> reporter: toni had to be hospitalized. she came back to work bandaged and bruised. did she seem at all rattled by it? did she seem -- did it change her at all? >> she just seemed depressed, but, you know, people get depressed when they hurt. >> reporter: toni's family looked back on that incident and wondered. are you starting to think that maybe the beam falling wasn't an accident? >> i think we were there at the time, maybe not admitting it, but enough to say there's something going on here. >> reporter: after the cabin incident toni's mother told her she didn't think toni should be alone with harold. >> what's interesting about it is when my mother had that conversation with my sister, my sister didn't try to correct my mother. she just said okay. which i think her silence
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probably spoke a little bit more. >> reporter: almost like she knew? >> i think she knew it probably wasn't an accident. >> reporter: and now toni had accidentally fallen off a cliff. >> it was as if the moment people within their circle heard about toni's death, that they all instantly suspected something was wrong. >> my husband said, we can't let this go. so he called the park rangers and basically just said, we're close with toni. we have suspicions. please investigate this, please. he begged them. >> i felt immediately upon hearing the news that we had to find out exactly what was -- what happened, and that we had to be her voice because the only story we were going to get was going to be his story. >> reporter: but they all soon discovered even getting harold's story wasn't easy. did you ask harold, tell me what
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happened? >> several times. i said, what happened, harold? and he blew me off. >> reporter: when harold came to mississippi for toni's memorial service her family thought he was more interested in watching a football game than talking about toni's last day on earth. >> he announced to us that day that he wanted to sit down with us and talk. and he said, oh, he totally brushed off. it will take about ten minutes. i want to watch the game. at halftime, we'll have -- we'll talk. >> reporter: rhonda couldn't believe what she was hearing. >> nope. that's not going to happen. it's going to be a lot longer than that. we weren't letting him off for ten minutes. >> reporter: a lot longer. they would all have to cross many miles and many years to get the whole truth. coming up -- >> this is not an easy descent. >> a revealing trip to the scene. halting steps and haunted questions. would you recommend somebody who is not an expert come down here? >> definitely not. >> what about a woman in her 50s
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three months after toni henthorn fell to her death in rocky mountain national park, her husband harold sent out a christmas card. murió en el parque nacional su a photo of him and daughter haley hiking in the forest. the inscription, "we appreciate your prayer for us as we walk through this difficult time." now, many people who had loved toni saw these sentiments less as heartfelt and more as part of
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a cover-up. did people see harold as the husband in mourning who had just been through an absolutely horrible tragedy trying to save his wife? >> i mean, that was so odd. we never saw any emotion out of him when we went to denver. the only time he cried was when he got the phone call that my sister's death certificate was going to say, "pending." and that was -- he was more angry than anything else. >> reporter: friends and family were suspicious of harold for many reasons, including that he couldn't seem to get his story straight about what happened to toni. the night she died, harold told toni's older brother barry on the phone that toni had lagged behind on the trail and he lost sight of her until he saw her at the bottom of the cliff where she fell. but later, when he spoke to toni's younger brother todd, harold added several new details. >> toni was taking a picture and he had gotten -- received a text.
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it was that haley was playing in a soccer game and it was a picture of haley playing soccer. and then when he looked up, my sister was gone. and she had fallen off the cliff. >> reporter: harold told many people toni was taking pictures of wild turkeys while the ranger recalled harold saying toni was trying to get a shot of him. journalist michael fleeman. >> harold gave several versions of what happened. and where the stories begin to diverge is really what was exactly happening at the time that she went off the cliff. was she taking a picture of him? was he on his cell phone looking at text messages? >> reporter: friends and family weren't the only ones comparing notes and clues. because toni died in a national park, the fbi joined the investigation. and the more they looked at what happened, the more reasons they found for concern.
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starting with the trail itself. this is not an easy descent, and people who knew toni couldn't understand why a woman who had had bad knees since high school would even risk it. "dateline" retraced harold and toni's path with the help of joey thompson, a climbing and hiking guide who often works in rocky mountain national park. is this path a path well-traveled? do a lot of people come down here? it seems tricky. >> no. this path is way out of the way for any recreational hiker to be scouting about and having fun in the mountains. >> reporter: would you recommend somebody who is not an expert hiker or rock climber come down here? >> definitely not. this is a place that's very loose, high classification of how we rate the terrain. this takes a lot of technical ability and sure footing. this is definitely out of the way. >> reporter: what about a woman in her 50s with bad knees? >> absolutely not. >> reporter: investigators also looked closely at harold's story of what happened after toni fell. remember, he said it took a long
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time to pick his way down the mountain to his bleeding wife's side. and sure enough, nearly an hour elapsed between the last photos on toni's camera and harold's call to 911. >> 911, what's the address of the emergency? >> i need an alpine mountain rescue team immediately. >> reporter: but here's the problem. when investigators retraced harold's steps, it took just a few minutes to get from where she fell to where she landed. then there was harold's statement that before calling for help, he had to move toni to flatter ground so he could do cpr. but the ground wasn't flat at all. the first ranger on the scene wondered why harold placed toni's head below her body. harold had told friends he was trained in first aid. usually when there's a head injury one elevates the head. >> if everything else had been normal, you would just say this was a guy who freaked out and made some bad decisions after his wife fell off a cliff. i mean, you have to give people a certain amount of leeway. >> reporter: but everything else was not normal.
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for example, harold cut his call to 911 short because he said his phone was dying. >> can you hang on one second for me? >> my phone's -- i'll check -- i'll check back in uh -- >> okay. >> text me. maybe text me because my -- my battery's really low. >> okay. >> thanks. >> okay, harold. >> reporter: yet when the fbi examined his phone records, they found that over the six hours following his first call to 911 harold made or received 22 calls and 98 text messages. >> he's texting his brother-in-law. he's texting his friends about picking them up. he's on the phone with different agencies. when was he actually performing cpr on her? >> reporter: the first ranger to arrive on the scene wondered the same thing. >> harold is sort of standing there not doing much of anything. i think he has a fire going. and the ranger shows up, and suddenly harold zips over and starts performing cpr on his now dead wife. >> reporter: remember a
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911 operator had coached harold on cpr. but the ranger noticed toni's lipstick wasn't smeared. no signs of mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. >> we're not heroes all the time. we do the best we can with what we have. and it's a very traumatic situation. but i think even factoring in all of that, harold's behavior was extremely suspicious. >> reporter: perhaps most suspicious of all, a clue from harold's cell phone records that he may have been on that mountain before. in the weeks just prior to toni's death, pings from harold's phone show him traveling north toward rocky mountain national park many times, something he never told investigators. harold said that he and toni came to this really hard-to-get-to spot for the views and they are remarkable. but they're not that much better than the views where they ate lunch, just up the hill from here. after the fbi found out that harold henthorn had to come to rocky mountain national park at least nine times alone before that trip.
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they started to believe he was on a scouting mission for the perfect lonely location. lured toni to this dangerous ledge, then a deadly push. if that sounded chilling, there was something else to consider. >> after toni died, within literally hours law enforcement got tips saying, you have to look into the first wife. >> reporter: yes, the first wife. there was a whole other story to tell there. coming up -- >> he was always with us. he was always involved in every conversation. and we were never allowed to be alone. >> what had happened to wife number one? er was added to this? my skin definitely feels much more radiant. that sense of having like smooth dewy skin
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when she first heard that her old friend, harold henthorn, had lost his wife toni in a fall from a cliff, kim laferriere was stunned that tragedy had visited the same man twice. it is possible that someone could be married to two women who both die from accidents. >> right. and at the time we thought how sad. >> reporter: a little less than
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five years before he met toni, harold had lost his first wife. her name was lynn. kim was lynn's best friend. they met at a christian youth camp. >> when i first met her, she came flying into the room bigger than life and she jumped up on one of the bunks and said, tell me who you like here. >> reporter: was she talking about boys then? >> yeah, she was. i'm like looking at her going, who is this wild woman? >> reporter: lynn was funny and fiery and full of life. kim knew she liked lynn right away, but it was their shared spirituality that cemented their friendship. >> we both were committed to serving god, and she would just draw you in. and she cared about you. and she wanted to pray for you. she wanted to know what you needed. >> reporter: lynn was already out of college and working. kim was still in school. but they shared prayers and secrets. lynn told kim what she wanted in a man. >> a christian husband, somebody who loved the lord, was a leader and strong but yet general.
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and we talked about it. you know, if i started dating someone or if she did and -- we had a check and, you know, we talked about that. i don't know if that's the best person for you. >> reporter: did you have to approve? >> i did. >> reporter: after all that girl talk about boys, lynn found a man kim did approve of, an old friend she had first met in college. his name? harold henthorn. >> she just said, there's this really neat guy. you know, we went to school together. >> reporter: it was in the years before e-mail, lynn and kim weren't living in the same town. so kim would hand write the latest about her new love. >> she would write me letters about him and how she felt about him and that she longed to be with him and wondered if he felt the same about her. >> reporter: you must have been happy for her. >> i was. i mean, i felt like it was a good thing. i felt like he would make a good husband for her. >> reporter: was harold charming? >> very charming. he was always bigger than life, always smiling, always laughing, always the center of attention.
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>> reporter: soon kim heard the big news from lynn, harold proposed. >> i do remember that she was so excited. you know, couldn't wait for me to really be able to spend time and to help plan the wedding and to be part of all of that. >> reporter: and did you do all those fun things, wedding shower? >> we did. >> reporter: harold and lynn married on september 11, 1982. kim was happy for her friend, but she saw something in harold on that day that gave her pause. you're saying even on the wedding day he was being controlling. >> he was just -- everything is always planned with harold. you'd move from one plan to another. >> reporter: but kim put her concerns aside and enjoyed the festivities. lynn and harold started their new life together in colorado where he had a job as a geologist. lynn got a job as a social worker. kim was happy for lynn, of course, but she also felt like her friend was slipping away. maybe it was the distance, maybe it was her commitment to her
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marriage, but just like it would be with toni years later, kim could never seem to get lynn on the phone without harold listening in. >> many times i didn't know he was on the phone, but i would sense that he was on the phone. and i would say, before i said something personal, lynn, is harold on the phone? and he would always say, "hey, kimmy." >> reporter: kim couldn't even get alone time with lynn when she went to visit her in colorado. >> he was always with us. and he was always involved in every conversation. and we were never allowed to be alone even if we were together. and he would even make comments when we would go to the bathroom, you know, you girls hurry up in there. you know. he would always make those, you know, like joking comments. >> reporter: that's got to start to get on your nerves? >> at times it did. but he always dismissed it as, i want to get to know you. lynn loves you. i want to love you like lynn does. i want to know who this, you know, crazy woman that she loves. >> reporter: but when harold
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wouldn't let lynn go to kim's wedding, even after kim offered to help pay for the trip, kim felt like she'd really lost her best friend. >> she called me and said, i can't come. and i said why? can you tell me why. and she said, i need to honor my husband. and that's all she would say. >> reporter: kim thought lynn was okay doing what harold said, because she believed that was her role as the perfect christian wife. there was some awe to the fact that she really did honor her husband. she would never speak negative about him. so i always looked at her and thought, man, maybe she's the better woman. >> reporter: as the years went on, lynn and kim spoke less and less frequently. but then in the fall of 1994 there was a reunion of sorts when the henthorns went back to the east coast for a visit. lynn and harold got to meet kim's children. and as true friends do, the two women picked up right where they
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left off. >> we talked and we laughed. and it was a good time. but we were always all together. i mean, even when it was time to go to bed, harold didn't go to bed until lynn was in bed. >> reporter: in other words, harold hadn't changed. but kim thought lynn seemed happy. did you think harold was good for her? >> i did, yes. >> reporter: what kim didn't know, it was the last time she would ever see lynn alive. coming up -- >> i said, i got to get her some help. >> a husband in distress. a wife in danger. >> i received a call from a friend who said that, i'm sorry to inform you, but there's been a bad accident. nsodyne. life without having to worry about what's gonna hurt my teeth, if it's gonna be too hot, or too cold,
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it started as a romantic anniversary weekend. but that's not how it ended. toni henthorn has died after a fall from a cliff in the rocky mountain national park. such an awful coincidence, or was it? we're about to hear exactly what happened to wife number one. again, andrea canning. >> reporter: may 6th, 1995. it was a cool spring evening in the colorado countryside. a little after 9:00 p.m., patricia montoya was with her family on highway 67 about an hour and half south of denver. basically in the middle of nowhere. >> came around a bend. and there was a flare in the street and a man trying to flag cars down.
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>> reporter: the man was harold henthorn, and he was in a panic. >> harold was at the driver window asking us for help because the car was here and it had fallen on top of his wife. and looking over to the area, you could see her legs coming from underneath. >> reporter: lynn, his wife of 12 years, was under the jeep. it was a horrible scene. >> we asked him what happened, and he said that they had stopped to fix a flat and his wife somehow went under the car possibly to get a lug nut and the jack fell from underneath the car and she got pinned. >> reporter: lynn was face down with the brake rotor resting on her back. the montoyas carefully lifted the jeep. >> all four of us got her out and we gently flipped her over. and she was -- her lips were already turning colors, and she wasn't breathing. >> reporter: it was a cold night.
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the montoyas piled coats on lynn. >> and so at that point, the two gentlemen that i was with, they started cpr. and i said, i got to get her some help. >> reporter: time was ticking down for lynn henthorn. no one had cell phones, so patricia raced toward the nearest town, nearly two miles away. it was late. it was desolate. she drove up to one of the few houses. >> i drove directly up to as far as i could get to the door. and i flashed my lights and i honked the horn until the man came out. and i asked him if he could please call 911. >> reporter: the man quickly went inside and made the call. then -- >> he came back out. he said that help was on its way. i asked him if he could bring a couple of blankets to cover her. and he grabbed some blankets and he followed me back up the mountain. >> reporter: when the 911 call finally went out, accident on route 67, roxanne burns was one
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of the emts sent out to help. >> when we got on scene, there were two emts working lynn. they were doing cpr on her. i asked them what they wanted me to do, if there was anything i could help them with. they said, no. we want you to go talk to the husband. >> reporter: she asked harold how it happened. he said he wasn't entirely sure. >> he did tell me that some lug nuts had fallen underneath the car and she must have gone underneath the car to get those lug nuts and somehow jarred the car. >> reporter: or, harold thought, he might have jarred the car himself when he tossed the bad tire into the trunk. roxanne tried to reassure him that they could still save lynn. was she hanging by a thread? do you think she had already died and they were trying to revive her? >> when you're doing cpr, they're actually dead at that point and, you know, so you're trying to pump their heart. we had called for a helicopter because sometimes when you do cpr you can actually, you know,
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revive somebody. >> reporter: and miraculously, it seemed, they did manage to revive lynn. >> we actually had a paramedic show up also on the scene, gave her a shot of epinephrine. her heart started beating again, so we were all real hopeful at that point that she was going to survive and got her on a helicopter and flew her. >> reporter: but lynn didn't make it. she died at the hospital. she was just 37 years old. >> i remember the day as if it was yesterday. i received a call from a friend who said that, i'm sorry to inform you, but there's been a bad accident. and lin died yesterday. >> reporter: it was heartbreaking for kim that her friend was dead and that she died in a way that was not quick and certainly was painful. the autopsy concluded after the 3,000-pound suv fell on her, lynn hemorrhaged into her lungs and died from asphyxiation.
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the only marks on her body, imprints from the brake rotor. the local douglas county sheriff's department opened an investigation, but a few days later the coroner ruled lynn's death an accident. the case was closed. did you have any reason to believe this wasn't an accident? >> no. we all believed him and took him at his word. any thoughts that i might have had i just dismissed. >> reporter: harold had his wife cremated, spread her ashes on a mountain he said she loved, and then went on with his life. he even kept driving the same jeep for a while. eventually he married toni, and lynn's death became a distant memory. for some people, anyway, but not all. nearly 18 years later after toni fell off that cliff, the sheriff's office called patricia montoya. >> i don't understand why it took so long. >> reporter: emt roxanne burns got a similar call and had a
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>> it made the hair on my neck stand up straight. >> this guy was all over the map from the get-go. morning peoplet left bars. good morning gamers. good morning moon. good morning morning. which will be starting soon.
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it was 2013, nearly 18 years since she'd arrived as an emt at the scene of lynn henthorn's bizarre death, when the phone rang, a sheriff's detective on the line. roxanne burns felt a great sense of relief. finally sort of a chance to -- >> to make it right. to make it right, yep. >> reporter: she hadn't forgotten that night back in 1995. it wasn't just the horrible way lynn died, her own jeep crushing her, it was the husband, harold. roxanne remembered he just
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wasn't acting right. you've seen a lot of these? >> oh, yeah. oh, yeah. and he was just so calm about the whole thing and didn't ask any questions about how she was or anything like that. he wasn't screaming at me, grabbing at me, saying, you have to do something. you know -- >> reporter: desperate. >> desperate. yeah. >> reporter: instead, as roxanne remembers it, harold seemed to be avoiding her. >> he kept walking around the car. he kept, you know, making me follow him. so i would ask him a question, and he would walk away from me. >> reporter: patricia montoya, the good samaritan, also remembers thinking that harold was acting strangely that night. for one thing, even though harold flagged down her family's car, patricia says he didn't seem to want their help. >> we started to get her out from underneath the car, and that's when he started telling us, you know, get away from her.
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don't touch her. >> reporter: she also noticed that although the night was chilly lynn was wearing just jeans and a t-shirt. harold, on the other hand, had a nice, warm coat. >> he didn't even attempt to take his coat off and cover his wife with it. so we all covered her with our coats. >> reporter: then when the emts got lynn's heart started, roxanne said harold said something she never forget. >> when we put her in the ambulance and she did have a heartbeat, he said, really? she has a heartbeat? he was more surprised than thankful. >> reporter: now that harold had lost his second wife toni in a second strange incident, the douglas county coroners office which had originally ruled lynn's death an accident hired private investigator and former denver homicide detective charlie mccormick to review the case file. he noticed something about harold right away. >> on face value, he's inconsistent. and that's never a good sign. >> reporter: for starters, harold told multiple stories
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about why he and lynn were on that back road in the first place. >> this guy was all over the map from the get-go. you know, we're going to dinner. be had been at dinner. we left the house at 3:00. we left the house at 6:00. >> reporter: in the police reports written in the hours and days after lynn died, harold is quoted giving different reasons as to why exactly they pulled over. >> he contradicted himself on what the tire problem was. was it a flat? was it spongy? was it soft? what caused this to happen? >> reporter: whatever shape the tire was in, the henthorns apparently tried to change it using jacks that normally used for a boat because harold told the cops the jack that came with the jeep was broken. >> he couldn't get it to work. and he even said that he sprayed some oil or solvent on it to try to get it to work, and it didn't, wouldn't work. >> reporter: but no oil or solvent was ever found to corroborate his story. then there was the biggest
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question of all -- >> how do you get under a car and have a car fall on you? it just didn't make sense to me. it never has. >> reporter: once again, harold seemed to tell multiple stories. patricia montoya remembers him saying lynn went under the jeep to retrieve a lug nut. lynn's old friend kim laferriere says harold told her lynn was going after a flashlight, not a lug nut. and roxanne burns remembered harold saying something else entirely. >> he said, she was changing the tire, which made the hair on my neck stand up straight because that -- i was like, women don't usually change tires when a man is around. >> reporter: investigator charlie mccormick couldn't see any good reason for lynn to get under a jeep held up by makeshift jacks. >> you'd have to be a fool under those circumstances, and from all the other interviews that was done, lynn was no fool to crawl under a car that you already were insecure about. >> reporter: mccormick believes the original investigation was incomplete.
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>> there's a lot of things that could have been looked at that would be easier to look at then than now. >> reporter: for example, what caused the jeep to fall? harold said he thought it happened when he tossed the tire into the trunk. but this photograph shows a shoe print on the front right fender. >> i would've jumped all over that footprint. that have been analyzed, compared to the shoes that everybody had on that was at the scene, whether it be harold henthorn or his wife or fire department or anybody. >> reporter: but no one did. and no one ever checked the jack harold said wasn't working to see if it was really broken. no one ever checked with the restaurant that the henthorns were either heading to or coming from, depending on which version of harold's story, if any, was true. >> i interviewed the restaurant employees to see if they actually did have dinner there that night. did they have a fight? were they getting along all right?
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or were they not there at all? >> reporter: whatever happened that night, by the time he met toni, harold was telling stories about lynn's death that were entirely different from the original. once, while addressing a sunday school class, he said his first wife had died of cancer. and here's what toni's friend allison heard -- >> it was one of those cars or trucks or vehicles where the back part opens up. it hit her on the neck and it broke her neck. and she died instantly. >> reporter: what toni's family said harold had told them was much more vague. when they learned the truth, it was a complete shock. your belief was that harold's first wife had died in a car accident. that's all you knew. >> yeah. >> reporter: and then you get this bombshell that she didn't die in a car accident. >> correct. >> reporter: it was a lie. >> and the first comment out of my mouth -- and i'm talking to an investigator -- i said, that sounds worse than my sister's case. >> reporter: and especially in
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light of toni's death, they wished lynn's case had been investigated more thoroughly. the douglas county sheriff's office declined to speak with us. but michael fleeman who has written a book about the henthorn cases says sheriff's detectives did investigate, at least initially. >> everything was progressing as if this was suspicious, and then all of a sudden the brakes were put on the investigation. it was declared an accident and forgotten for nearly 20 years. >> reporter: detective charlie mccormick thinks the reason for that was the coroner's quick ruling that lynn's death was accidental. >> if you're a policeman and you're trying to investigate a crime and all of a sudden the coroner, who really has jurisdiction over all, says it's an accident, you're a little bit cut off at the pass. two days after a death like this, to call it an accident, it's unfortunate. all the facts would indicate that this was, i think, a rush to judgment. >> reporter: the former coroner says there was no rush to judgment.
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he didn't remember the case, but reread the coroner's report at "dateline's" request and says, quote, hindsight is a wonderful thing, but at the time everything fit. there were no suspicions raised and no reason to drag our feet. nevertheless, after toni's death and mccormick's review, the douglas county coroner changed the manner of lynn's death from accidental to undetermined. still, harold henthorn hadn't been charged with anything not in toni's death or his first wife lynn's? so sheriff's detectives called on lynn's old friend, kim. what did they ask you to do? >> they asked if we were willing to be wired. >> reporter: best friend under cover. what would she find out about harold? coming up -- >> my husband and i were looking at each other going, i can't believe this. >> were you a little scared? >> very scared.
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two dead wives.
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two lonely places. lynn and toni never knew each other, but they shared so much. in life they both married harold henthorn, and in death harold had them both cremated against the wishes of their >> we didn't find out my sister's been cremated until her memorial service. we would like to be able to go to a grave somewhere and see her. i mean, first family said the same thing. you know, devastated. never heard that, you know, she wanted to be cremated. i mean, as soon as he got that body released, boom, cremated. >> reporter: and the bertolets added, if that wasn't enough, he then took those ashes and put them where he wanted them. >> toni's ashes are spread on the same mountain that he spread the first wife's ashes. >> same spot. did the exact same thing. >> and he always claims that it's their favorite spot. i mean, we're talking -- he did the exact same things from start to finish with both wives.
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crazy. i mean, even the same photo pose. >> reporter: the families thought what harold did with his wives' remains was insensitive. but the cops, federal and local, were looking for something else. evidence of murder. in douglas county, the detectives went down the list of who might know anything about lynn's case. they talked to patricia. they talked to rockies been, and they wanted to talk to harold. when he wouldn't agree, they turned to someone he would talk to -- his old friend kim laferriere, and asked her and her husband to secretly record a conversation with him. >> we said no at the time because we felt like he was innocent. >> reporter: after all, kim and harold had been close friends for years. >> we prayed about it. and we asked our pastor. and he said, if he is innocent, then you'll be able to reveal that. and so then we agreed to do it. >> reporter: now she and her
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husband were meeting harold for a meal near her home in virginia, but first getting wired up by police. the cops were hoping to use harold's words against him. kim still hoping to exonerate him. were you a little scared? >> i was very scared. >> reporter: i would be scared to do something like that. >> was scared. >> reporter: at first, she could only think of one thing. >> we had a huge wire around my waist. i kept saying, he's going to hug me. and they said, no, he can't. and i said, he's going to hug me. he does that. and they said, no, he can't. and i was trying to process what am i going to do? >> reporter: so don't hug me. that's kind of hard. that looks suspicious. >> and so when he hugged me i put my hand in front of me to guard the wires. >> reporter: crisis averted, they sat down. do you think he could tell anything was up? >> we don't know. he said many times, my attorney has told me that my friends will
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be wired. >> reporter: did that send a chill? >> no. i said, golly, that's terrible, would they really do that? i could play the game. >> reporter: kim and her husband were told not to mention toni and to drill down on what really happened when lynn died. this wasn't about saying did you do this? did you cause your death? it was more about catching him in lies and inconsistencies? >> right, right. >> reporter: then harold said something which didn't make sense to kim, that he'd put his career on hold when haley was born and he and toni decided to keep that a secret. >> he told us the reason he didn't work and didn't tell us is that toni had asked him not to. he couldn't tell us because he was afraid that if we ever met up with the bertolets, that we'd tell him that he's a stay at home dad. i'm like, we would never see them. and he goes, well, i couldn't take that chance. >> reporter: then there was a technical glitch. >> at one point my wire wasn't working. >> repor÷er: how did you know it wasn't working? >> they called me on the phone
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and -- >> reporter: so you were taking a call in front of harold from the police? >> and they told me to get in the bathroom and they would fix it. >> reporter: wire fixed, kim went back to the table. harold, who was never shy about anything, launched into a sad story about life without toni. >> we didn't do much talking. he did. i mean, he cried and said how hard it was and how, you know, it was hard to be a mom and a dad. >> reporter: but there was one thing harold, who loved to talk, never said. >> we never asked him, did you kill her? but he never said, i didn't kill her. he would make statements like, why would i do that? they're accusing me of this. why would i do that? but he never said, i didn't kill either one of them. >> reporter: still, as a longtime friend, kim couldn't bring herself to believe that harold was capable of murder. even after all of this, you
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still aren't convinced that he's a killer? >> not 100%, no. but we have lots of questions, lots of unanswered questions, lots of concerns, lots of things that my husband and i were looking at each other saying, i can't believe this. >> reporter: after that night kim and harold continued to talk. it took kim some time to process what harold had said. she considered his inconsistencies, the differing stories he'd told her and others. in time she grew to believe that neither of harold's wives, her friends, had died accidentally. how did that sink in? how did that feel? >> sad. i felt like he was such a broken person. and i just felt sad that he wouldn't even come clean and tell the truth. >> reporter: sad in part that a man she thought she knew seemed to be someone else entirely. do you think he is the master manipulator? >> yes.
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i think he totally controls every situation and tries to control everyone. and i think when he can't control you, he becomes angry. and i'd never experienced his anger until he was going on and on about if the fbi contacted me or if anyone contacted me, they would tell me lies about him. i said, no, they don't. and he goes, what are you talking about? and i said, they don't tell you lies. they ask you questions. and he said, well, how do you know this? and i said, because i've talked to them. >> reporter: did he freak out? >> oh, he freaked. >> reporter: harold must have wondered if kim was talking to the fbi, who else was and what were they saying about him. >> coming up -- >> work with nonprofits. >> harold told people he was a fund-raiser for nonprofits. >> fund-raiser?
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on the christian dating site where harold and toni met there's a question for members -- what would you do if you inherited a fortune? harold wrote he'd give a good chunk away and set up a as it turned out, harold had come into a small fortune, although there's no evidence he gave any of it away.
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when his first wife lynn died, harold told police she had about $300,000 in life insurance. but when they re-examined the case, they found the amount was more than double that, more than $600,000. >> after lynn's death, he collects hundreds of thousands of dollars in life in insurance money, and as best anyone can tell, that's how he supported himself. >> reporter: harold wasn't living the high life on that money. he lived frugally in the years after lynn's death. but by 1999, when he met toni, he may have been trying to upgrade his lifestyle. >> there was evidence that he was researching a number of women's financial situations including toni's. it had been several years between wives. >> reporter: it was during those years he met sonserae leese-calvar. >> when you're dating on the internet, a widower is actually -- you know, could be a good find. >> reporter: sonserae was on that same christian dating site
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that harold and toni were using. she found harold's profile appealing and reassuring. >> because a guy in his late 40s might have a lot of weird ticks or, you know, haven't had any relationship experience, but a widower, oh, a widower. that's nice. so you think that's safe. >> reporter: she agreed to meet harold for coffee. >> he knew how to carry himself. he dressed nice. he was good looking. he had a tan and seemed to present himself physically. >> reporter: she says harold was very interested in her work in the film industry and how she was making a lot of money. >> and i went into detail about what i did. i made a very good living and was living by myself in a three-bedroom house. so he knew i was well established. >> reporter: but sonserae remembers harold had few details to share about his work in charities.
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>> he just seemed like he was >> reporter: sonserae saw that as a huge red flag and decided harold wasn't for her. she can't remember the exact date they met, but she thinks it was the spring of 2000. if that's correct, harold was already engaged to toni, who thought he was a successful consultant to charities, able to support her if she decided to quit her medical practice and be a stay-at-home mom. it's what he told everyone, including a friend making a home video shortly after haley's birth. >> i work with nonprofits, that would be churches, schools or hospitals. >> reporter: harold and toni had even lived apart for two years after their wedding supposedly due to the demands of their careers. >> harold told people he was a fund-raiser for nonprofits. he had an address, a post office box. he had a business card. and this was his story. >> reporter: remember, harold
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had told kim in that undercover restaurant meeting that when haley was born he decided to be a stay-at-home dad for a while. he just didn't want toni's family to know. >> exciting year. we love you all. and why don't you come out an visit us in denver? >> reporter: but there was much more to it than that. when fbi investigators dug deep into harold's financial history, they found no tax returns, no pay stubs, no efld harold had held a job since lynn died in 1995. >> when he was investigated after toni's death, they could find no evidence at all that he ever made a dime. >> reporter: apparently everything he ever said about his job was a lie. including nearly every thursday when he said he went on business trips. just as there was no business, there were no business trips. the fbi looked at harold's cell phone and credit card records and found out that he really spent thursdays at this panera bakery
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a few miles from his house, eating and surfing the web. so after the wedding, why did harold say he needed to stay in colorado for his work? why eventually did toni have to leave mississippi? toni's family wondered if harold's real purpose was to separate her from them so she'd be easier to control and maybe to kill. do you think that there's the chance that he knew his plan for toni from the very beginning? from the time they said "i do"? >> they got a life insurance policy as soon as they got back from their honeymoon. and so i think he was probably going down that path. >> reporter: the life insurance policy they bought after the honeymoon was just the first one. by the time toni died there were more. >> a huge part of this investigation was just untangling the life insurance policies and what he took out and what toni signed off on and what she may not have known
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about and where the documents went. at the end of the day, harold arranged it so that his wife's life was worth millions of dollars. and that if she died, he would get all of it. >> reporter: investigators discovered four policies totaling $4.7 million. >> on the surface, he would make it sound like this life insurance policy on toni would benefit their daughter in some kind of a trust. >> reporter: and one of the policies had named haley as a beneficiary, but harold hadn't bought it. toni's parents had. and harold had his daughter's name removed. his name put on it instead. and he did it just weeks before that beam mysteriously fell on toni at their mountain cabin. then just days after toni died, he alerted the insurance companies hoping to collect all those millions but couldn't get the money because the case was being investigated.
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by late 2014, the fbi had found the insurance policies and the cell phone pings to the park. they knew about the near miss at the cabin. they had dissected all the lies. finally, they decided it was enough. november 6, 2014, a little over two years after toni henthorn died, harold dropped haley off at school then headed for home. he never got there. law enforcement stopped him near his house. him with toni's murder. a good day in amongst all the bad? >> yeah. >> this won't have a happy ending because we won't be able to bring my sister back. but from here on out there will be good moments for us. and that was a good moment. and it just so happened to be on my parents' 55th wedding anniversary. >> reporter: but there was still a trial to come and another battle with even more at stake.
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by 2015, the bertolets had been waiting for justice for three years. they missed toni but felt an incredible connection to her through haley.
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it was agony for toni's family. then immediately after his arrest, a lawyer assigned to represent haley's interests in court made sure she got to see the bertolets. it had been a year since they had even been allowed to talk to her. >> she finally got to be a little 9-year-old girl, and she just needs to be able to grow up without a lot of adult issues around her. >> reporter: the bertolets also went to court to seek custody of haley, but harold was still her father and even from jail made it clear he was not going to let his in-laws take his daughter. >> he is a horrible person that i want to be put in prison for the rest of his life. he deserves to be there, and he
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does not deserve to be a parent to this beautiful child. >> reporter: haley stayed in colorado and lived with her godparents. the bertolets only chance to gain custody of her would be if harold was convicted of her mother's murder. harold pleaded not guilty, and that meant the stakes were doubly high when on september 8, 2015, ten months after his arrest, harold henthorn went on trial. it would be a battle for both his freedom and his daughter. the burden of proof is always on the prosecution, which in this case had no forensic evidence, no physical evidence, no fingerprints or dna. and no witnesses who saw harold push toni off the cliff. juror john johnson was skeptical. >> right at the start because i didn't know anything about it, i was thinking, okay, this is going to be hard to prove. no witnesses, no evidence at that point. so what do you have? >> reporter: but there was all
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that life insurance. there were the cell phone pings that seemed to show harold scouting out toni's last hike. the prosecution even showed the jury a map found in harold's car with an x marking the spot where toni fell. and there were all those versions of what harold said happened on that mountain. >> this was a case in which the evidence was not so much the physical evidence. the evidence were the lies. and it was lie after lie after lie after lie. >> reporter: the defense said none of the so-called evidence added up to murder. they said the pings on harold's phone didn't show trips to the park, but rather him taking a back route to his weekend cabin. and, as for the life insurance, toni knew all about it. besides, they argue you'd, tonad still be alive if the park service had sent a helicopter to rescue her as harold begged them to do and even offered to pay for. >> the crux of the defense was harold henthorn is an odd duck.
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he says more than he should. and that may make him a blowhard and an annoying person to be around at a cocktail party but doesn't make him a killer. look past his character and focus on the evidence. nobody saw harold henthorn push toni off that cliff. there is no video of it happening. there's very little physical evidence to prove anything other than it was just a fall. >> reporter: but the prosecution had another powerful card to play. although the defense objected, the judge allowed in testimony about harold's first wife lynn, about her death, her life n and about harold's many versions of what happened. >> and the question was, is this man just horribly unlucky or is he a double murderer? >> reporter: after ten days, the case went to the jury. john johnson, along with fellow jurors peter christofolo and jerry taboada, told us that over the course of the trial, they
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came to believe that toni was a victim from the time she first met harold online. was toni just really unlucky when she chose harold henthorn on that website? or he chose her? >> i think he chose her. i think she was a target. >> because of her age, for one thing, you know? and she wanted to have kids. >> she was vulnerable. >> yup. >> reporter: the jurors thought that harold had conned her when they met on the dating site, controlled her while they were married, and when they looked at this last photo toni took before she died, they thought they saw harold duping toni one last time. >> in my mind, she was doing the same pose he did. the last photo of him is he's on the edge of the cliff holding onto a tree, like, looking over. well, if she gets there at the same time, it's like, oh, poof. >> reporter: and while harold was not on trial for killing lynn, they believed harold was responsible for her death also.
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did everyone believe that somehow there was a pattern there? >> there was certainly -- >> a pattern. >> absolutely. >> yeah. the similarities were just too much to push aside. the nighttime incidents. desolate areas. it was like domino effect, everything was falling into place. >> reporter: in the end, they had no doubt. >> guilty. >> it was guilty. >> absolutely guilty. >> reporter: kim cried when she heard the verdict. cried because she knew it was right and because she thought about her two friends and their last moments on earth. >> i feel sad because lynn was afraid. and i know toni was afraid. and that saddens me. but i have to believe in a god that met them right where they were, held their hand, loved them and told them it was going to be okay. >> reporter: harold has never
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been charged with killing his wife lynn. three months after the verdict in toni's case, harold was back in court for sentencing. toni's family asked that harold be spared the death penalty so that haley wouldn't lose both parents forever. harold, who has filed an appeal, was sentenced to life in federal prison without the possibility of release. harold told the court that day that he never killed anyone. he also said that he loved his daughter haley. toni's family's focus then turned to the custody of haley. you hope to resolve that custody issue that she can be with the bertolets forever? >> i think that's exactly what we're hoping for. >> and praying. >> reporter: you fought hard for that little girl. >> oh, yeah. her mother went through life, was a great person, worked hard. we're doing that because haley needs to inherit all the good things that her mother did. and she needs a secured life going forward. we're doing all that for haley,
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and no one else. >> reporter: december 23, 2015. a court in colorado granted toni's oldest brother and his wife guardianship of haley. we won't show her face as she looks now, but it was the best gift the bertolets could have hoped for. haley was with them in mississippi in time for christmas. now, this little girl who has gone through so much is starting to heal. she has her cousin anna kate to help. >> people are saying i'm therapeutically helping her through this. i don't really understand, but i don't know how i'm doing this, but i guess i'm just keeping her entertained and happy. >> reporter: though haley is expected to get all that insurance money harold had been after, there's nothing anyone can do to bring back her mother. but everyone who knew toni wants to make sure haley never forgets her.
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>> she came into the office, and her mom's lab coat was hanging behind the door. and i said, haley, would you like your mama's work coat? and she said, miss tammi, i would like that a lot. so i put it on her. and she went, it smells like my mommy. that's all for now. i'm lester holt. thanks for joining us. and the republican party needs a leader who will make sure that hillary clinton never gets within ten miles of the white house. and donald trump is that man! >> chris christie out on the
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campaign trail with donald trump tonight hours after he stunned the republican establishment and endorsed the trump campaign. we are live with reaction from new jersey voters on what the governor's true intentions could be. but first -- >> i had my son's blood on my hands. >> a mother traumatized after police shot her son inner that home tonight. prosecutors are filing charges against that son after they say there was a confrontation with officers. good evening. the suspect's mother believes the shooting is excessive force and he shouldn't be charged because he's mentally ill. today prosecutors filed charges against savion garrison. rose mary connors is joining us where garrison is being treated tonight. rose mary? >> reporter: jim, the family was here earlier this evening visiting the man telling me that he is out of a coma. he is talking, doing much

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