Official Blog of Author MICHAEL THOMAS BARRY.
A blog which discusses varied topics that are related to the authors many books. Michael is a columnist for CrimeMagazine.com and a reviewer for The New York Journal of Books.
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Monday, December 15, 2014
Socialite Sunny von Bulow was Found Unconscious - December 21, 1980
This week (December 15-21) in crime history – Singer John
Brown began serving prison term for assault and other crimes (December 15,
1988); Adolf Eichmann was sentenced to death for war crimes (December 15,
1961); Federal Judge Robert Vance was killed by mail bomb (December 16, 1989);
Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme was sentenced to life in prison for attempted
assassination of President Ford (December 17, 1975); John Kehoe, last of the
Molly Maguires was executed (December 18, 1878); Three black men are beaten by
group of white teens in Howard Beach (December 20, 1986); Socialite Sunny von
Bulow was found unconscious at her Rhode Island mansion (December 21, 1980).
Highlighted crime story
of the week -
On December 21, 1980, wealthy socialite Martha
"Sunny" von Bulow was found unconscious on the marble bathroom floor
of her Newport, Rhode Island, mansion; the result of what appeared to be an
insulin overdose. Following a long investigation, Sunny's husband, Claus von
Bulow, was charged with two counts of attempted murder and was convicted in a
sensational trial in 1982. But the conviction was later overturned, and Claus
was acquitted at a second trial in 1985.
Sunny Crawford, the only daughter of a wealthy oil and
gas businessman, married Danish social climber Claus von Bulow in 1966. The
couple enjoyed a glamorous lifestyle together, but the marriage apparently hit
troubled times, particularly after daughter Cosima was born, and the two began
sleeping in separate bedrooms. Claus, who had no independent source of income,
was reportedly angry that Sunny was sitting on a $75 million fortune.
After Sunny fell into the coma, her personal secretary
came forward, alleging that Claus kept a black bag containing insulin in his
closet. With this information, Sunny's children pressed for a deeper
investigation into Claus' involvement and eventually convinced authorities that
there was enough evidence to prosecute. In fact, her coma on December 21 was
not Sunny's first brush with death. Less than a year earlier, she had
mysteriously lapsed into a coma but eventually recovered. At the time, friends
and family noted that Claus seemed strangely unconcerned. He had tried to blame
the coma on Sunny's alleged alcoholism, despite the fact that there were no
traces of alcohol found in her system, and medical officials had no explanation
for the coma.
During the investigation, police discovered that Claus
had been having an affair with a former soap opera actress. The actress
testified that she had issued Claus an ultimatum date that closely corresponded
to the date of Sunny's first coma. Many believed the circumstances surrounding
both of Sunny's comas undeniably implicated Claus. The case was boosted into
the public's consciousness by the second trial, which was televised and the
bestselling book Reversal of Fortune,
which focused on the efforts of Claus' defense team to get his conviction
After Claus was convicted in 1982, he hired famous
defense attorney Alan Dershowitz to handle his appeal. Dershowitz, who
uncovered evidence suggesting that Sunny's coma may have been self-induced,
also found enough discrepancies in the secretary's testimony to have Claus'
conviction overturned. Soon after, Sunny's children filed suit against Claus,
who settled the suit by agreeing to renounce all claims to Sunny's fortune. He
then promptly relocated to London. Sunny remained in a persistent vegetative
state until her death in 2008.
Check back every
Monday for a new installment of “This Week in Crime History.”
Michael Thomas Barry is a columnist for www.crimemagazine.com and is the author
of six nonfiction books that includes the award winning Murder & Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California, 1849-1949.
Visit Michael’s website www.michaelthomasbarry.comfor more information. His book can be purchased from Amazon through
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