Toni Bertolet Henthorn died after she was pushed off a cliff during an anniversary hike in Rock Mountain National Park. Her husband, Harold Henthorn, was convicted of first-degree murder in her death.
Bob Bertolet, Toni’s father, and Todd Bertolet, her younger brother, read the following victim impact statements at Harold’s sentencing.
Toni’s alma mater, the University of Mississippi, has set up an endowment in her name that will raise money for ophthalmology education and surgical equipment. If you would like to donate, you can visit www.umc.edu/tonibertoletendowment.
Bob Bertolet's statement:
My name is Bob Bertolet, father of the victim, Toni Bertolet Henthorn. My wife is Yvonne and our two sons are Barry and Todd. We never imagined that murder would come into our lives like a thief in the night. The Bertolets have always been a close-knit family, loving, helping and protecting one another. We feel guilt that we failed to act on our suspicions concerning Toni’s welfare in her marriage. We grieve that we were not by her side in her dying moments. We agonize over the question: Did Toni know she was being murdered and what were her thoughts as she fell 140 feet? We ask: How could money be so important to a man, that he would kill the mother of his seven year old daughter? Three years later we are still heavy laden with the emotional shock of her death.
Toni was a special child, a precious gift to us from God. She was a beautiful hazel-eyed blonde Southern Belle who excelled in academics, sports, music and leadership. She was deeply religious-teaching Sunday school, singing in both college and church choirs. Her greatest asset was her ability to feel what others were feeling. She had a passion to console and give advice to those who were in need of direction and comfort. Toni worked long and hard in pursuing her goal of being an ophthalmologist. Now that effort is laid to waste. I think of how desperately she wanted a child and now she will never see that child grow up, never see her grandchildren.
There is a picture of a smiling Toni resting on an easel in our home. At the bottom it reads: In Loving Memory, January 10, 1962-September 29, 2012. January 10th was one day short of her mother’s birthday on January 11th. Yvonne always considered Toni the best birthday present she ever received. I am haunted by my wife’s lament: “When Toni died, I died. I will never celebrate my birthday again.” Yvonne and I will never again hear Toni say, “Hi Momma, Hi Daddy, this is Sissy.”
We hear you, Sissy, in our hearts. We are hoping that you have no more nights, no more pain, no more tears with the Heavenly Father. But for us, there will be, forever in this life, the pain and tears, maybe not seen by others, for our daughter, killed in a cruel, sadistic, senseless and cowardly act of violence.
On September 29, 2012, the family as a whole decided on a course of action, not believing that the tragedy was an accident. Firstly, we wanted to be a strong voice for Toni and to seek justice in her behalf. Secondly, we wanted to provide a safe and loving environment for Haley, preferably with her mother’s Mississippi family. The sentencing today is the final act in completing our first goal and has opened the door to achieving the second goal. We take solace that prayers are being answered.
…..In closing, I thank the Court for allowing me to present this Victim Impact Statement. The preparation of the Victim Statements by Barry, Todd and myself have helped us move ahead in the journey to recovery.
Prepared by Bob Bertolet, October 19, 2015
Amended December 5, 2015
Todd Bertolet's statement:
My name is Todd Bertolet, and I am the younger brother of Toni Bertolet Henthorn.
Toni Bertolet Henthorn was blessed with the gift of intellectual brilliance, impeccable character, extraordinary talents, and a big heart. It is often said that when a brilliant mind, talent, and heart come together as one, one should expect a “Masterpiece”. Toni Bertolet Henthorn’s life was a masterpiece and role model to those who were fortunate to be a part of her life. Toni was either a blessing to the people that surrounded her or a lesson to those that she mentored.
Toni used her extraordinary abilities to become an accomplished medical physician in the specialty of ophthalmology. She chose ophthalmology, because to look into one’s eyes draws a dedication and commitment to the person observed. A portrait artist once said that it is only when the details of eyes are revealed that the observer becomes committed to the face and person before them. As an ophthalmologist, Toni’s commitment was her recurring choice to make a positive difference in the lives of so many. Toni had a profound effect on people with her care, having been consistently described by her patients and their families as that of an Angel and a Godsend in the time of need. Toni was not a life form on this Earth with wings and halo; she was a grounded person living an everyday life while doing remarkable deeds that touched people’s lives.
Remarkable deeds didn’t always shield Toni from the heartaches and losses seen in the practice of medicine, but those heartaches and losses defined and elevated her compassion and care. Early in her medical career, Toni received a call to give emergency care to a 4 or 5 year old little boy that had been critically injured in a car accident. As the little boy lay on the emergency room table, he pointed to his head and moaned “hurt…..hurt”. In spite of Toni’s efforts, the little boy died having succumbed to his injuries. Overwhelmed by the loss of the child, Toni never wanted to see the hurt in another person’s eyes, much less a child’s eyes. Toni always carried the pain of a loss, but she also knew what those tragic moments taught her as a person. Every great doctor had seen loss, had seen suffering, had seen life’s struggles, but all had discovered a purpose in their own lives to rebound from the lows of tragedy. Toni was a medical doctor that had this unique perspective on life, and those moments affirmed her compassionate care and concern for others. A medical physician of Toni’s caliber doesn’t just happen because one simply holds a medical degree; this type of physician evolves through extraordinary experiences and is not readily replaced.
There is no unique perspective or lesson to garner from the wrongful death and loss of Toni … it is what it is … a devastating loss. To the young man who thought he needed a new prescription for his glasses, but was diagnosed by Toni with an aggressive brain tumor requiring immediate intervention, Toni’s life mattered and was indispensable. To the young man facing total blindness from an injury requiring the skilled hands of a surgeon, Toni’s life mattered and was indispensable. To the young person contemplating committing suicide in need of compassion and skillful guidance, Toni’s life mattered and was indispensable. To the young medical physician in need of an accomplished mentor to guide a promising medical career, Toni’s life mattered and was indispensable. To the little boy that was dying on the emergency room table that felt the healing hand of a wonderful physician, but was in need of a guiding hand to heaven from a person of tremendous faith, Toni’s life mattered and was indispensable.
On September 29, 2012, the Defendant murdered Toni Bertolet Henthorn. The wrongful death was affirmed by an attentive, intelligent, meticulous, and methodical jury that considered the facts and evidence in this case and reached the verdict of guilty of 1st degree murder. This case has revealed more than just the circumstances behind the wrongful death of Toni Bertolet Henthorn; it has also revealed the ugly truth of the extent of the deceitfulness of the Defendant.
The Defendant is the evil that lurked in unthinkable places to manipulate his way into Toni’s life as well as others of her character. The Defendant preyed on women of faith in a Christian environment because, as with Toni, Christian women move forward in life with goodness in their heart as opposed to vigilance in their eyes. I disagree with the Defendant’s counsel when he proclaimed that the Defendant told lies to his detriment; the truth is the Defendant told lies for his direct benefit. The Defendant proclaimed to be a Christian man when in fact he was an immoral man. The Defendant claimed to have a career and business, when, in fact he had neither. The Defendant claimed to be financially wealthy, when, in fact he had no fortune at all. The Defendant claimed to be a provider, when, in fact he offered and gave nothing. The Defendant claimed to be a family man, when, in fact he was a selfish man. The Defendant’s entire adult life was a lie and scam to live his life and lifestyle while others paid the price. The Defendant only made withdrawals and made no deposits in the lives of his wives and their families. While Toni lived her life to inspire people, the Defendant lived his life to drain people, and he represents a human debt that can never be reimbursed. As Warren Buffet stated, “Honesty is a very expensive gift. Do not expect it from cheap people.” The defendant is morally cheap and is bankrupt of all honesty.
In the Defendant’s sociopathic world, no person, place, or thing had any power over him, as his thoughts and his mind were the only authority. The Defendant created his own reality and everyone in it. The Defendant’s phony status and perception took priority over his family, and he chose family and friends based solely on his ability to deceive the same. The Defendant evidently perceived a strong and viable mother / daughter relationship as a threat to his authority in his warped world. The Defendant severely limited and constrained the mother / daughter relationship of Toni and her mother and closely monitored all communication, not because they didn’t get along, but merely because they were “too close”. “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice” – James 3:16. The Defendant’s jealousy and selfish ambition prevented any of his energies from being expended in considering the good of others, and, as such, his actions were accordingly contemptible.
The Defendant mistakenly believes that he is a father and parent just because he has a child. A true parent places a child’s needs above their own selfish wants. Children shouldn’t have to sacrifice so that one can have the life one wants, one makes sacrifices so one’s children can have the life that they deserve. The Defendant chose his own selfishness and greed over the needs of his family. After Toni’s death, the Defendant routinely proclaimed that Haley Henthorn was doing “just fine” without her mother. The Defendant referred to Haley as a “trooper” and that life moved on as if nothing ever happened with respect to the permanent absence of Haley’s mother. The Defendant even proclaimed to a group of school mothers that Toni’s daughter would be fine, because the “real relationship” was actually between Haley and him. Haley is not fine without her mother. The Defendant is neither a good father nor a replacement for a loving mother. In the Defendant’s selfish quest to hoard a child as a possession, he interfered with and severed a sacred relationship…that of a mother’s love for her child and the child’s need for the love her mother. Author Vissarion Belinsky appropriately noted, “Nothing is more sacred and selfless like the love of a mother; every affection, every
love, every passion, is either weak or selfish in comparison with her”. As exhibited previously of the mother / daughter relationship between Toni and her mother, the Defendant saw no value in a mother’s love; the Defendant only saw the financial value of the life of the mother.
To a child, evil and villains are supposed to be easily identifiable. The innocence of a child should not be violated by evil within and, more importantly, evil within a trusted family unit. The bad guy is the Defendant, and the evil that our children must now comprehend came from within the family in the form of a parent and an uncle. My child now asks the appropriate question of “how do I know”. How does she know that a trusted person is not lying to her? How does she know that the person she chooses loves her for who she is and not for her wealth and lifestyle? How does she know that a person of perceived trust will not cause her harm? How does she know that grief and sadness will not fall upon her again at the hands of a person she trusted? We can forgive a child for being afraid of the dark, but we cannot forgive the darkness of selfish desolation that lies within the Defendant’s heart.
The Defendant would have us erroneously believe that he is an “unlucky” man, a hard luck husband, and a person in which lightning has tragically struck twice. In fact, the Defendant has never been unlucky; only the Defendant’s wives have been unlucky with their untimely and obscure deaths. In each case, the Defendant made arrangements to be a lucky recipient of significant benefits from those deaths…his own version a post mortem lottery. The Defendant’s so called estate planning banked on and invested heavily in the premature demise of his wife. The Defendant’s estate planning was grossly disproportionate as to his gained benefits from the death of his wife, yet showed little or no reciprocity had the circumstances been reversed and he met his untimely death.
Grief is the human emotion that is exhibited by the loss of a loved one…it is the price of love. The Defendant never showed grief as to the loss of Toni, and has yet to tell anyone in this family that he actually loved her. In fact, the most endearing and only statement that has been uttered by the Defendant is that he “lost his best friend”, a less than committed affirmation of a supposedly loving relationship. From the time of Toni’s death, the Defendant has made it abundantly clear that he just wanted to “move on” with his life. Grief doesn’t move on and doesn’t end for those that are loved. We are forced to say goodbye, forced to learn to live without our loved one, and forced to fill the emptiness that remains in our hearts. Grief means coping, emptiness, adjusting, loss, and sadness. Grief is place where one never wishes to remain; yet it will be our unending passage due to the wrongful acts of the Defendant. As was the case with the crime scene photos, we can close our eyes to things that we don’t want to see, but we can’t close our hearts to the hurt that we don’t want to feel.
Toni’s life was ruined by the lies and deceitfulness of the Defendant, but, in the end, the Defendant was exposed and convicted by the truth. The Defendant feels no guilt, and, as is the case with most criminals, blames the victim, the victim’s family, the Good Samaritan and rescuers, the press, the investigative authorities, and the judicial system for his troubles. The Defendant has blamed the victim for her own death. The Defendant slandered the victim’s family for not publicly supporting his lies and deception and taught his daughter to hate as punishment of the same. The Defendant vilified and chastised each Good Samaritan and rescuer that attempted to come to the aid of his critically injured wives; aid which he never gave nor intended to give. The Defendant blamed the press for exposing the truth and destroying his scam and lies to the community in which he lived under false pretense. The Defendant demeaned the investigative authorities for uncovering his murder and sinister intentions. The Defendant now denounces and rejects a judicial system that convicted him of his crime beyond a reasonable doubt.
The public needs to be able to forget Harold Henthorn, because he does not belong in anyone’s future. The sentence to be handed down by this court is the only result that the Defendant has actually earned in his adult life. Of all the titles that the Defendant has bestowed upon himself without merit, the title of Murderer, bequeathed by the jury, is the only title that the Defendant has earned. The Defendant deserves the sentence of this Court as he has worked his entire adult life earning the same. The silence of the victim, Toni Bertolet Henthorn, in the court today is another word for the pain that she lived at the hands of the Defendant. The silence of the victim, Toni Bertolet Henthorn, in the court today represents her loudest cry for her daughter and the injustice at the hands of the Defendant.
In closing, this trial was about the last moment in Toni’s life and the moment that Toni took her last breath. To Toni Bertolet Henthorn’s family, her friends, and the people for whom she cared, Toni’s life was about the moments that took our breath away.