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Investigation Into Death Of Henthorn's First Wife Placed On Hold

By Brian Maass

CASTLE ROCK, Colo. (CBS4) - The Douglas County Sheriff's Department has decided to no longer actively pursue a murder case against Harold Henthorn in connection with the death of his first wife, Lynn, on a rural mountain road in 1995.

"We're not going to be filing immediate criminal charges," said Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock Monday afternoon.

"We're going to keep it static," said Spurlock.

The Douglas County Sheriff had reopened its investigation of the May 7, 1995 death of Lynn Henthorn following the death of Harold Henthorn's second wife, Toni, in 2012.

In September of this year, a federal court jury convicted Henthorn of murder saying the Highlands Ranch man pushed Toni Henthorn to her death during an anniversary weekend hike in Rocky Mountain National Park in 2012. Henthorn will be sentenced to a mandatory life prison term when he appears in court again in December.

Following Toni Henthorn's death, Douglas County began to re-examine the death of Henthorn's first wife. Lynn Rishell died in a bizarre incident when the couple's Jeep fell on her during a tire change in 1995. Within a week, Douglas County investigators declared it an accident and closed the case. But the sheriff began re-investigating the case and in the last three years, conducted 40 interviews with an eye toward potentially filing a murder charge against Harold Henthorn.

But last week, the Douglas County Sheriff's Department informed members of Lynn Henthorn's family that the case was essentially being placed on an indefinite hold and no criminal charges would be likely for years.

Dougco Sheriff Spurlock explained to CBS4 that it was "in the best interest of justice" to defer possible prosecution until Harold Henthorn's appeals of his federal murder conviction have been exhausted.

Spurlock acknowledged those appeals will likely take years.

Spurlock said "We believe we have a case we could file. We believe there is enough evidence." But he said it makes more sense to sideline the Douglas County case so the federal case can continue unfettered and without any other cases potentially causing legal problems during the appeals process.

Spurlock said a detective assigned to the Henthorn case will be taken off it and will be re-assigned to deal with other cases. The sheriff said his office will keep the Lynn Henthorn case technically open as an active case and he said if new evidence arises, the department's position could change.

The family of Lynn Henthorn had long expressed hope that Harold Henthorn would be prosecuted for their sister's death, not believing their sister died the way Harold Henthorn described.

Harold Henthorn said she crawled under the Jeep during a tire change at night on Highway 67 west of Sedalia. Henthorn said she was chasing after a lugnut she had dropped. Henthorn then said one of the jacks holding up the Jeep gave way, and his wife was crushed. Harold Henthorn was the beneficiary of more than $600,000 in life insurance from Lynn's death.

Lynn Henthorn's two brothers and sister told CBS4 while they were disappointed, they completely understood the reasoning and were supportive of the sheriff's decision to indefinitely defer the investigation into their sister's death.

CBS4 Investigator Brian Maass has been with the station more than 30 years uncovering waste, fraud and corruption. Follow him on Twitter @Briancbs4.

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