For Valentine’s Day, we here at Lost Souls of America wanted to try something a little bit different- a special episode where we share three stories with you about love gone wrong! One small thread that all of these cases have in common is that the family and loved ones of the victims all seem to look back and point out the red flags in these relationships. Behaviors that were controlling, possessive, secretive, manipulative, and just plain twisted. In some cases they expressed concern, but no one was ever fully able to pull these couples apart before it had deadly consequences.
These cases are all solved, but if you tune into Episode 13 of the Lost Souls of America podcast, Amelia will be telling you more about a current open investigation- Lauren Smith Fields. Please do listen to her story, and share often.
Our first story begins with a woman named Toni Bertolet. In 1999, Toni was a single 37 year old woman who’d tried and failed in love a few times before. She had a fantastic career as an eye surgeon, but she felt strongly that her missing puzzle piece was the opportunity to find a loving partner and finally become a mother. Though she feared the man of her dreams and that ideal family would never come along, her luck seemed to change when she met a charming and handsome bachelor on the internet.
Harold Henthorn was a high level executive fundraiser, working mostly from home but managing a large staff for his company that made millions per year. He’d been married before and his first wife had died tragically in a car accident, so Harold did not like to talk much about this trauma. Since Toni herself had a short lived and tumultuous previous marriage, she didn’t push. The couple quickly fell in love. Harold doted on Toni, and her family was thrilled to see the joy on Toni’s face as the two grew closer. Most importantly for Toni, Harold was keen to start a family right away, a dream he’d never gotten to fulfill from his first marriage. So it came as no surprise when they married a short nine months later.
For several years the couple struggled with infertility issues, so when Toni gave birth to daughter Haley in 2005 everyone in the family knew what a beautiful blessing and miracle the little girl was. But Toni’s family began to notice some cracks in the exterior of the perfect family.
In retrospect, Toni’s family shares candidly how they watched her confidence deteriorate over the years. It began with some behaviors that we can see now as controlling, but at the time were the kinds of things you just weren’t sure what to do or say about. They felt he always needed to be the center of attention, and he insisted on managing all of the details of the household just his way. Worse though, Harold would always be on the phone with Toni whenever her family called to chat with her, he never wanted to return to her hometown to visit, and the family just felt she was a bit isolated. With Haley in the picture now, things seemed to get worse as Toni became almost like a third wheel. Harold handled all of the play dates and plans, and Toni was often left out of the fun the two would have together.
Toni’s family tried to approach her with their concerns, but she was hard to get to since Harold was always present or on the phone. When they did manage to get private conversation time with her, she insisted her family stay out of it, not wanting to have to get a lecture from her husband. Toni was a self described “good christian woman” and would not even entertain the thought of divorce. She had some complaints, but overall decided his quirks were ones she could live with, and the pair carried on.
For the couple’s 12th wedding anniversary, Harold arranged for a special hiking trip to surprise his wife. He arranged all of the details at Toni’s work, secretly coordinating her time off. The couple arrived at the Rocky Mountain National Park on September 29th 2012, and headed out for their hike. That evening Harold made a chilling 911 call to announce that his wife had been in a tragic accident, slipping and falling off a cliff to the rocks 130 feet below. According to Harold, Toni was pausing for a photo on the edge of the cliff. He looked away to check a text message and when he looked back up she was gone, slipped off the ledge suffering fatal injuries.
Even before agencies began to look into this nightmare, Toni’s mother says she knew there was more to the story. She was sure he’d pushed her daughter to her death. And it wasn’t long before the investigation caught up with her intuition.
The scene of the accident yielded many clues on its own, and those are discussed heavily in the docuseries on Hulu called Wild Crime. A major point to note is that Harold’s story seemed to fluctuate, and as everyone knows a changing story is a major red flag. Fact doesn’t usually change. Another point that really stuck out to me was that Toni’s lipstick was undisturbed, though Harold claimed to have done CPR. Similarly, the investigators from the National Park System point out parts of the crime scene that just don’t make sense, logistically, based on Harold’s version of the events. Her body shouldn’t have landed where it was, it didn’t seem to make sense that she was posing on the ledge in the first place because of how hard it was to get to, and her belongings were scattered in a way that made them wonder if the scene was staged. Perhaps the most chilling of the evidence collected was Harold’s trail map, with an X marked clearly on the exact spot where Toni had fallen to her death.
Another point of suspicion that came up in their investigation was Harold’s business. While Harold worked from home, he took frequent business trips and was known to be quite busy, yet investigators couldn’t actually find any records of clients… There was no business registered in his name, he had no business partners, and no one interviewed by authorities have ever been able to verify working with him. None of Harold’s work colleagues, investors, or clients attended Toni’s funeral services, and no one who knew him could really tell police what his business was called or the details of his projects. Harold was full of crap. In fact, it appeared that he was living largely off of his first wife’s life insurance policy, which had been half a million dollars.
While investigators already were feeling suspicious, an anonymous phone call regarding that very insurance policy was what really led everyone down the trail of doubt toward Harold.
Harold’s first wife Lynn had died nearly 20 years before. The couple was on a road trip when the car had gotten a flat tire. As Harold reported the event, his wife was holding the nuts and bolts when he went to the back of the car to exchange tires. The car shifted and when he came back, his wife Lynn was hopelessly pinned underneath the vehicle’s wheel well, crushed to death by the weight of the SUV.
At the time, Harold was considered a victim in all of this, the poor young widower who suffered a tragic loss. As you may have suspected, Toni did in fact have a hefty life insurance policy, and Harold would have made a substantial amount of money from his wife’s accidental slip and fall. One memory that rings with fear and heartache for Toni’s family is the time that Harold, Toni, and Haley were staying at their vacation cabin. According to Toni’s mom, Harold had insisted that they clean out the debris from outside late one night, after dark. Something fell from the porch right where Toni had been cleaning below. If she hadn’t moved just a second before, she’d have been killed right then and there. Her family can’t help but wonder now, was that an attempt on her life? Harold also took out a fraudulent life insurance policy on his sister in law, leaving them all to wonder if there was another victim in the works.
Harold was tried and convicted of the murder of Toni Henthorn. An investigation into the death of Lynn Henthorn has been reopened. He’s currently serving his sentence of life without parole at Terre Haute Federal Prison in Indiana. Toni’s family cheered “Bye Harold” as he was removed from the courtroom in handcuffs. Toni’s daughter Haley is being raised by her brother and sister in law, and she has taken Toni’s maiden name.
Our second story tonight begins with a handsome young man named Travis Alexander. In 2006 Travis was 28 years old and worked for a multi level marketing finance company. He was one of the more successful young people in the company’s ranks, rising to a level where he was considered a motivational speaker. He was presenting at a convention in Vegas when he met the stunning young blonde, Jodi Arias.
For Travis and Jodi, it was love at first sight. He thought she was an incredible catch and the pair fell hard and fast, spending all of their time together. It was obvious from the get go that Jodie was absolutely infatuated with Travis, and it quickly rang some alarm bells for his friends. Jodie’s behavior was reportedly jealous, controlling, and extremely possessive.
But Jodi’s jealousy wasn’t the only factor giving Travis some concern. The pair had an extremely sexual relationship, and it seemed that their physical connection was really the basis for their bond. The two frequently took explicit photos of each other, and loved to use the camera in the bedroom. When they couldn’t be together, they were often having graphic text and phone exchanges instead.
For Travis, this was not a quality he could see in a wife. And yes, I do think that’s a misogynistic double standard, but Travis described himself as a devout Mormon. He was a practicing member of the church of Latter Day Saints, something that Jodi actually loved about him. She even began converting for him, but the couple simply could not stop breaking the no touchy touchy rules! Even though it takes two to tango, Travis broke up with Jodi so he could find someone more aligned with his religious practices to marry.
The couple broke up but according to Jodi stayed the best of friends. What we now know, is this means they were still sleeping together. But Travis was doing his best to move on, even inviting another woman on his company retreat to Cancun.
In June of 2008, Travis’ friends and family grew concerned when they hadn’t heard from him in five days. His roommate broke into his bedroom and found a bloody horror show. Travis had been dead for days, drained completely of blood after having been stabbed 29 times, his throat slit, and having been shot in the head.
There was plenty of evidence to comb through, including a knife in the dishwasher, and a camera in the washing machine. But while the investigation was just beginning, Travis’ former girlfriend Jodi called and offered her assistance to investigators. She said she was devastated by the news and wanted to do whatever she could to help.
Now, if you’ve never seen anything surrounding this investigation before, I encourage you to search for the Jodi Arias interrogation videos. They’re probably the main reason this case is so popular, because her behavior gets WEIRD. Jodi begins by denying everything When the police confront her with the evidence from the camera they’d recovered, she completely breaks down in sobbing hysterics, changing her story drastically. The photos show the couple in sexually explicit poses on the day that Travis was last seen, followed shortly by a photo of what appeared to be an unconscious Travis covered in blood.
Jodi, through copious tears and sniffles, says she was there, but that there was a home invasion. She was able to escape with her life, and had been too afraid to come forward. When police don’t buy it one bit, the investigators leave her alone to consider things when they offer her the opportunity to confess. During this time, despite the fact that she’d just been crying, Jodi can be seen singing Christmas carols out loud to herself, playing a game with a water bottle, and rifling through the trash. Then she gets out of her chair, puts her hands and head on the floor, and does a headstand. They tell Jodi she’s about to be arrested for murder, she asks if she can have a moment to freshen up her makeup before the booking photos.
The final nail in the coffin for Jodi came from her DNA found in a bloody palm print on the bathroom wall of Travis’s gruesome murder scene. Throughout the trial, Jodi was described as attention seeking, testifying on her own behalf for 17 straight days. Her version of events claimed Travis died as a result of her self defense when he attacked her, but the prosecution was successfully able to argue premeditation based on Jodi’s travels and texts in the days before his death, as well as the sheer excessive brutality in her attack. On May 7th 2013 Jodi Arias was convicted of the first degree murder of Travis Alexander. She’s currently serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole at the Perryville prison of Arizona. She still takes every opportunity possible to smile and look pretty for the cameras.
Karla Homolka was just 17 when she met her dreamboat of a man, Paul Bernardo in October of 1987. Karla worked at a pet store, and even though she was young she was allowed to attend a conference with her coworkers where she snuck off to the bar. Karla liked what she saw in Paul who was very handsome and well put together for his 23 years. Karla liked what she saw in Paul so much, that she went home with him that night, and the two began a steady, hot and heavy relationship.
Though in retrospect, friends and loved ones can see controlling patterns in Paul’s behavior toward Karla, most everyone in Karla’s family adored Paul right off the bat, and he was welcomed in as one of their own immediately. They even let Paul sleep in Karla’s room when he’d come to stay, since they kept a long distance relationship early on.
At a family Christmas party in December 1989, Paul proposed to Karla, and everyone excitedly began to plan the dream wedding! But before the pair marry, tragedy strikes the following year at the same annual Christmas party when Karla’s little sister Tammy dies in a sad accident. Though she was only 14, her family had allowed her to have a couple glasses of the rum spiked eggnog, and at some point in the night had choked on her own vomit. Paul had done his best to save her, but was unable, and the family was all grateful he was available to help Karla get through this difficult time.
That summer, June of 1991, Paul and Karla wed in a large, beautiful, stylish church ceremony. The dress was big, the hair was high, and the couple looked perfect, just like Ken and Barbie. Karla’s dream wedding was almost dampened by a wild breaking news story! That morning, the body of 14 year old Leslie Mahaffy had been found nearby. The area had been terrorized by a rapist for a while now, and a lot of people feared that maybe this was him escalating. Though the buzz of the current events circled throughout the pews, no one let it ruin the beautiful celebrations of love, and the festivities wore on!
The couple continued on with life, now seemingly happily married, but Paul’s controlling ways didn’t seem to subside at all. The investigation into the death of Leslie also carried on, and police grew concerned of escalation when the body of 16 year old Kristen French was found in a similar manner. While the investigation wore on, so did Paul and Karla’s marriage. Then in January 1993, just a year and a half after their dream wedding, the facade of the perfect couple came crashing down when Karla filed domestic violence charges against her husband for beating her with a flashlight, leaving her with two badly blackened eyes. The next month, Paul Bernardo was arrested. You see, the police had already grown suspicious of him. Paul had even been interviewed back in November of 1990 as a potential person of interest in the serial rapist investigation, and he had volunteered DNA samples, but they were never tested, and the police moved off of him quickly! Could it really be that Karla’s abusive husband was the same man that had been tormenting the community all this time? Karla eagerly cooperated with investigators, and was ready to tell the whole truth. Her husband had abused and tortured her for years, but according to Karla, she was not Paul’s only victim. Yes, he was The Scarborough Rapist. Yes, he was The Schoolgirl Killer.
In exchange for a plea deal, Karla tells the investigators the gory details of Paul’s crimes. She also owns up to her minimal involvement in the deaths of Leslie Mahafy and Kristen French, stating that she was threatened by Paul, and feared for her own life if she didn’t comply. Karla plead guilty to two counts of manslaughter and was sentenced to 12 years in prison without trial. The details of the agreement were kept under a publication ban by the judge, meaning press couldn’t talk about the plea in order to ensure Paul got a fair and unbiased trial.
And then they found the tapes.
16 months prior, Paul’s attorney Ken Murray had conducted a post-investigation search of the Bernardo’s home. The police had failed to find the smoking gun, 6 home recording video tapes, tucked away in light fixture in an upstairs bathroom. Murray illegally kept these tapes to himself, shielding his client from the fallout. In September of 1994, Murray steps down as Paul’s attorney, passing all of his information onto his successor John Rosen. John Rosen took one look at the tapes, and immediately turned the graphic evidence over to authorities.
Portions of the 6 tapes were played at Paul Bernardo’s trial and had such a horrific lasting impact on jurors and reporters that many of them actually say they have severe PTSD and mental health issues. The Ontario courts had the tapes DESTROYED in 2001 so that they could do no further harm.
In the death of Leslie Mahaffy, the tapes show that she’d been kidnapped at knife point Paul and brought back to Paul and Karla’s home. She was sexually assualted over and over again… not just by Paul but by Karla as well, who for the first time ever was now being seen for what she truly was. A willing participant in these heinous crimes. She was strangled with an electrical cord, dismembered with a circular saw, covered in concrete, and disposed of in the lake where she was discovered the day of their wedding.
The couple worked together to lure Kristen French into their vehicle, and she was easily conned by Karla’s beautiful smile. The pair held Kristen captive for three days, taking turns sexually assaulting her. At one point, the tapes show Karla in a school girl uniform, forcing Kristen into a matching outfit to help fulfill their sick virginal fantasies. Karla cut off her hair and Paul burned her with cigars while the pair took turns beating and abusing her.. She was strangled with an electrical cord and her body was left in a ditch. But Kristen carried a secret weapon- Paul’s DNA, which would be the linchpin that linked him forensically to at least 13 rapes in the Scarborough area.
The tapes also verify the existence of more victims, including the rape of one only known as Jane Doe. In June of 1991, Karla alone lured her 15 year old coworker to their home for some hanging out girl time. She gave her alcohol laced with Halcion, a veterinary drug for sedation of pets. Karla primed and prepared her before Paul arrived home, and when he did they took turns filming eachother sexually assault the girl. The next morning, she assumed she was hungover and this was “normal” after drinking. In August, Karla invited her back for a sleepover and she was again drugged and assaulted. During the rape, Karla called 911 because Jane Doe stopped breathing, but she came to quickly and Karla canceled the request. It wasn’t until later that Jane Doe realized how close she was to losing her life.
Perhaps the most shocking evidence contained in the tapes was the rape and death of Karla’s own sister, 14 year old Tammy who’s death had been ruled an accident several years prior. Based on video evidence from these tapes, what we now know is that Tammy had been intentionally drugged with valium in her eggnog. Her sister held a rag over her face laced with veterinary medicine Halcion that caused her to lose consciousness and burned her skin. The tapes reveal that this wasn’t the first time either, that months prior they’d spiked Tammy’s spaghetti with valium but she’d woken up mid-rape. This time though, Tammy would never wake up, and many believe to this day that her big sister Karla knew exactly what she was doing with the dosage.
One sickening detail found in all of the tapes was Paul’s preference for a young virgin, and Karla’s eagerness to please her man by helping him acquire girls to force himself on. In one of the tapes dubbed “the fireside chat”, the couple records themselves in a graphic sexual interaction in the basement of the Homolka family home where Tammy had died very recently. I’m going to leave out the details of what their bodies are doing, but as I share this will you please know it’s all being said as foreplay and pillow talk. Karla begins by sharing how much she loved watching Paul eff her baby sister, how much she loved it when he took her virginity. . Paul then asks her how she felt that night (and remember that this is the night Tammy died) and Karla responds that she felt proud. He wants to know if she’s glad she participated, and she goes on about how much she loved it but it doesn’t really make her gay because Tammy is her little sister, so that’s different. The couple carries on making plans for more people they can rape together, and Karla says that she wants them all to be 13, even using the words “little girls.” Karla then proceeds to use Tammy’s underwear to pleasure Paul, while she rubs a rose all over his body, saying that tomorrow they would take the rose to Tammy’s grave as a gift for her.
As the chat goes on, the couple confess to multiple rapes and tortures, reminiscing over how much they enjoyed it. Karla vows to do it 50 more times if that’s what he wants, and the couple take their tryst upstairs to Tammy’s bedroom where they roleplay the rape and murder again. When Paul finishes he says “I love you Tammy” and the tape ends with Karla’s sinister wave at the camera.
The infamous couple have earned many monikers over the years: The Ken and Barbie Killers, The Schoolgirl Killers, and individually The Scarborough Rapist and the Witch of Ontario. Together they’re responsible for at least 3 known murders, over 20 rapes, and at least 2 stalkings between 1990 and 1992. Paul Bernardo was sentenced to life without parole and is currently incarcerated at Canada’s Millhaven Institution. He has since confessed to more crimes, and no one is quite sure of the true horrors that he committed with his twisted wife. Karla Homolka was sentenced to 12 years and has since been released, thanks to her stunning plea deal. She is remarried with three children, and though she’s changed her name, her past continues to haunt her, making it difficult to live a normal life without intense scrutiny from her community who fear she will reoffend. Karla maintains that she’s a victim who has paid her debt.
Ok sweet friends, moral of the story tonight is if someone seems too good to be true, they probably are! Trust your instincts, and follow the FACTS, not the fantasy. Happy Valentine’s Day Lovahs. We’ll be back next week with our regular format! These are the stories of the voiceless. These are the lost souls of america.