Federal authorities investigating death of former Natchez resident

Published 12:12 am Tuesday, November 5, 2013

NATCHEZ Federal authorities are investigating the death of a former Natchez resident who died last year during a Colorado outdoors trip with her husband.

Toni Bertolet Henthorn, who graduated in 1980 from Trinity Episcopal Day School, died Sept. 29, 2012, during a hiking trip with her husband Harold Henthorn in the Rocky Mountains.

Toni Henthorn, 50, fell approximately 40 or 50 feet from the steep, rocky north side of Deer Mountain, park rangers said.

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Rangers reached the scene about two hours later, and her body was recovered Sept. 30, 2012.

Harold Henthorn was the only other person with Toni at the time of her death. Authorities and Bertolet family members said the case is under investigation.

“We have publicly stated in this case that we are looking into the death that occurred on federal land in Rocky Mountain National Park,” FBI spokesman Dave Joly said. “This is what gives us our investigative authority, and we are partnering with the (National) Park Service.”

Joly declined to elaborate further.

Toni’s father, Bob Bertolet, formerly of Natchez, who now lives in Jackson, described the investigation as “very intense” and “ongoing,” declining to speculate on what may have caused his daughter’s death.

Todd Bertolet, Toni’s brother, said the park service and FBI have contacted family members concerning his sister’s death.

Todd Bertolet said authorities have provided little details about their investigation to family members, adding he believes an indictment will happen “sooner rather then later.”

“There is no timeline they have given us,” Todd Bertolet said. “They have been very careful (with what they tell us) for a number of reasons. Obviously, we will all be witnesses if any future trial comes about.

“They don’t really tell us anything or talk about anything outside of what we know. If it’s any procedure, any scheduling or anything like that, they don’t share that information with us.”

Bertolet family members said they are aware of a CBS Denver report indicating criminal investigators are also investigating Harold Henthorn in relation to the death of his first wife, Sandra Lynn Henthorn, who died in an accident in Douglas County, Colo., in 1995.

CBS reported, in that case, the couple was returning from a mountain outing when Henthorn told investigators he believed one of his tires was going flat, forcing the vehicle to the side of the road.

“Henthorn explained to investigators that as he was changing the tire his wife somehow ended up under the car, possibly looking for a lug nut, when Henthorn said the jack slipped and the car fell on her,” CBS reported.

Bob Bertolet said his daughter Toni ran track at Trinity and played on the girls championship basketball team as a guard.

“She was a very accomplished pianist,” he said. “She was gifted with beautiful pitch and had a really nice alto voice. Toni was a bright student. She graduated magna cum laude from Ole Miss. Then she completed her medical degree at the University Medical Center.”

Bob Bertolet said Toni was an ophthalmologist in Colorado at the time of her death and taught Sunday school and kids choir.

He said a memorial service was arranged last year for Toni in Jackson, adding “a ton of Natchez people came. We lived in Natchez for 40 years.”