By Keith Coffman
DENVER (Reuters) - A federal grand jury has indicted a Colorado man for the murder of his wife who plummeted 50 feet to her death in Rocky Mountain National Park in 2012, authorities said on Thursday.
Harold Henthorn, 58, was arrested by agents from the National Park Service and the FBI following a two-year probe into the death of Toni Henthorn, the U.S. Attorney's Office said in a statement.
According to the indictment handed up on Wednesday, Henthorn "willfully, deliberately, maliciously, and with premeditation and malice aforethought" caused the death of his wife.
Prosecutors have charged Henthorn, who lives in the Denver suburb of Highlands Ranch, with first-degree murder. If convicted, he faces a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole. Details of the investigation have not been released.
Toni Henthorn, a 50-year-old ophthalmologist, was hiking with her husband on Sept. 29, 2012, in the Deer Mountain area of Rocky Mountain National Park when she fell to her death, the park service said at the time.
The park, about 65 miles northwest of Denver, traverses the Continental Divide and contains the headwaters of the Colorado River.
Recovery crews located Toni Henthorn's body about 3 miles off a trailhead and stayed with it overnight until a helicopter could reach them in the steep, rocky terrain, the park service said.
The arrest of Henthorn came nearly a year after a 23-year-old Montana woman, Jordan Graham, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for shoving her husband of eight days off a cliff in Glacier National Park in July 2013.
Graham asked a federal appeals court last month to void her plea and her 30-year sentence for the killing of 25-year-old Cody Johnson.
Henthorn made his initial appearance before a U.S. Magistrate judge on Thursday, the U.S. Attorney's Office said. It was not immediately clear if he had legal representation.
Mark Magnuson, Rocky Mountain National Park's chief ranger, said in a statement that visitor safety was a priority for the park service.
"When a violent crime such as this occurs in a national park, one of our nation's most treasured places, we work hard to ensure that those responsible are held accountable and the victim and the victim's family are afforded justice," he said.
(Reporting by Keith Coffman; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Peter Cooney)