Closing arguments heard in Henthorn murder trial

Posted at 10:48 PM, Sep 18, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-19 00:48:31-04

Attorneys presented their closing arguments Friday in the trial of a man who allegedly killed his wife by pushing her off a cliff at Rocky Mountain National Park.

Harold Henthorn's wife, Toni, fell to her death in Rocky Mountain National Park three years ago this month. On Friday morning, a federal prosecutor spent nearly an hour summarizing the evidence against Henthorn and arguing that he shoved Toni off the cliff to cash in on $4.7 million worth of insurance policies.

He was allegedly paying for some of those life insurance policies without his wife's knowledge.

Prosecutors also asserted that Henthorn scouted the park nine times before the day he allegedly shoved his wife off the cliff. He had marked a map with an "X" on the location where she fell, prosecutors said.

Toni Henthorn's brother, Barry Bertolet, praised the focus of prosecutors' trial strategy.

"This case is built around him being a money grabbing husband, and I think that they proved that case," the brother told 7NEWS reporter Jennifer Kovaleski. "I do think they presented an excellent case and I think that Harold is guilty."

Bertolet said the trial has been an emotionally grueling process -- to hear testimony of how his sister died and prosecutors' assertions that Harold had elaborately plotted the killing.

"I think one thing that really stuck out to me is that I didn't know [Harold Henthorn made] multiple trips to the mountain area to this spot [where Toni died]," the brother said.

"It was very difficult to sit there and listen to all that. It was emotional -- I cried several times," Bertolet said.

Ultimately, Bertolet said it's hard to believe how Harold Henthorn "fooled" those close to Toni and convinced them that he was a loving husband.

"I wanna say -- I'm a smart guy -- how was I tricked, you know, by this person? Was he really that good that we all got just so fooled and deceived in all that?" Bertolet asked.

Jurors also heard about the death of Harold Henthorn's first wife, who was crushed to death by their Jeep. Henthorn said it was an accident while she was changing a tire and he never faced criminal charges, but that case is now reopened.

Henthorn's defense never called a witness during the trial, but argued the government was trying to assassinate his character. Defense attorneys argued that there was no way to tell if Toni was pushed from the cliff or if she fell.

After closing arguments ended,  jurors begin deliberating the case Friday afternoon. They will continue deliberations on Monday.

Tammi Abbruscato, a friend and co-work of Toni, also talked about the emotional ordeal of Toni's death and then the investigation culminating in the trial.

"It's very difficult -- very nervous, very emotional -- [I'm] shaking as we speak," she told 7NEWS. "It's been a lot of up and down. We grieved, we settled with that grief. We came to some rest in knowing what happened and now we're grieving again."

Ultimately, she said it call comes down to Harold Henthorn's hubris.

"Typical, typical Harold -- it's his arrogance," Abbruscato said.