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Signatures Questioned On Dead Woman's Insurance Policy

DENVER (CBS4) - Two handwriting experts have concluded that someone forged the signatures of a Highlands Ranch doctor on her $1.5 million life insurance policy which was taken out two years before she mysteriously died in a fall from a cliff in Rocky Mountain National Park.

"It really is one of the worst forgeries I have ever seen," said Wendy Carlson, a forensic document examiner who reviewed Dr. Toni Henthorn's life insurance policy at the request of CBS4.

Harold Henthorn, Toni Henthorn
Harold and Toni Henthorn (credit CBS)

The 50-year-old eye doctor died in September 2012 as she was hiking up Deer Mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park with her husband, Harold, on the couple's anniversary weekend.

Harold Henthorn told authorities that his wife slipped and fell 50 feet leading to her death. But a coroner has declined to rule the death an accident; instead writing, "She fell or was pushed. The manner of death is undetermined. Homicide cannot be excluded."

The FBI is investigating Toni Henthorn's death. Harold Henthorn has not been arrested or charged with any crime and has declined to discuss his wife's death with CBS4.

An ongoing CBS4 investigation has learned that in 2010 a life insurance policy was taken out on Toni Henthorn with insurance giant ING. The policy was for $1.5 million. But sources familiar with the case say a handwriting expert hired by the insurance company, ING, has now concluded Toni Henthorn's signatures on the insurance policy were forged.

So CBS4 asked another handwriting expert, Wendy Carlson, to examine multiple known signatures of Toni Henthorn's from various years and compare them to several signatures on the life insurance policy.

Carlson is a certified forensic document examiner who has testified 60 times as an expert in state, local and federal courts. She has testified in Colorado and eight other states.

Henthorn Signature
(credit: CBS)

Carlson says it took her about an hour to determine someone else signed Toni Henthorn's signature on the life insurance policy.

"I am absolutely certain, I have no doubt," said Carlson. "Some of the differences are very obvious. There are a number of significant differences."

Toni Henthorn's brother, Todd Bertolet, told CBS4 he also examined the various signatures and suspects the insurance policy signatures are phony.

"It just didn't look like hers," said Bertolet. "I don't believe they are her signatures. They were by someone else's hand."

Harold Henthorn's attorney, Craig Truman, told CBS4 he would not discuss the insurance policy and the signatures. He said as a matter of routine, he does not discuss his cases outside of the courtroom.

Sandra Lynn Henthorn
Sandra Lynn Henthorn (credit: CBS)

But the forgery question is just the latest controversy to swirl around the Highlands Ranch man who has consistently declined to answer questions. CBS4 learned that Henthorn's first wife, Sandra Lynn, also died in a freak accident in 1995. In that case, Henthorn told investigators the couple's Jeep fell on his wife during a tire change on a rural Douglas County road. The only witness to that accident was Harold Henthorn.

Henthorn told investigators that a jack slipped and the Jeep fell on his wife. She was pronounced dead the next day. He told police at the time that his wife had perhaps gone under the car to look for a lug-nut.

CBS4 has learned that in that case Harold Henthorn had taken out at least one $300,000 life insurance policy on his wife, with him as the beneficiary. Henthorn later explained to investigators the policy was necessary because Lynn Henthorn was scheduled to undergo surgery later that year.

The Douglas County Sheriff's Department has told CBS4 it has reopened the 19-year-old investigation into Lynn Henthorn's death due to "extraordinary circumstances."

While Harold Henthorn has declined to answer reporters' questions, he has told friends and neighbors that he is innocent and would never harm his wife. Neither the FBI nor the Douglas County Sheriff's Office have indicated when their investigations might be concluded.

For years Harold Henthorn portrayed himself to friends and family members as a wealthy, high-earning businessman who helped raise money for charities and nonprofits. But Bertolet now says that the family recently learned that was all a ruse and that Henthorn has admitted he never had a job.

"For the past 20 years his whole life has been lies and deceit," said Bertolet. "My sister was deceived. He's not the person he says he is. Moving forward … its important everyone know who he is."

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