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Manner Of Death Changed For First Henthorn Wife

DENVER (CBS4) - Nearly 20 years after the mysterious death of Sandra Lynn Henthorn on a remote road in Douglas County, CBS4 has learned that the Douglas County coroner has changed the woman's manner of death from "accident" to "undetermined."

The woman's husband, Harold Henthorn, went on to remarry Toni Bertolet, who then mysteriously died in a 140-foot fall from a cliff in Rocky Mountain National Park in 2012. Federal authorities have charged Harold Henthorn with murder in connection with his second wife's death. He has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled to go to trial in May 2015.

Now CBS4 has learned that on Thursday, Douglas County Coroner Lora Thomas officially changed the manner of death on Sandra Lynn Henthorn's death certificate.

"I had several questions after I reviewed the 1995 Henthorn file," Thomas wrote in an email to CBS4. "I hired a consultant to review the records, and based upon his report, I decided that the correct course of action was to change the manner of death in Sandra Lynn Henthorn's death from Accident to Undetermined. A death certificate is an official government document that needs to reflect the facts available."

She would not agree to an on-camera interview to explain her decision and declined to release the name of her consultant or the contents of his report.

Sandra Lynn Henthorn
Harold and Sandra Lynn (courtesy to CBS)

In the 1995 death case, Harold Henthorn told authorities he and his wife were driving on County Road 67 west of Sedalia late at night when one of his tires felt mushy. But he said during the course of changing the tire, his 37-year-old wife apparently decided to scoot under the Jeep to retrieve a lug nut.

Henthorn told investigators a jack gave way while his wife was under the vehicle. She was crushed and died the next day. Six days later, the Douglas County Sheriff's Department closed the case as an accident and the Douglas County coroner followed suit, labeling Sandra Lynn Henthorn's death an accident. Harold Henthorn collected $496,000 in life insurance proceeds from his wife's death, according to law enforcement authorities.

The Douglas County Sheriff's Department reopened its investigation into Sandra Lynn Henthorn's death in late 2012, following the death of Harold Henthorn's second wife, Toni. They have declined to discuss the 20-year-old case, citing their reopened investigation.

On Friday evening, Eric Rishell, Sandra Lynn Henthorn's brother, told CBS4 he believed the death certificate change was "symbolic of the direction we think everyone is working toward in these proceedings. We appreciate everyone's continued due diligence in this case and are hoping and praying for the right outcome."

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