Monday, Dec. 08, 2008

Sunny Von Bülow

It was a fairy-tale life with a demise taken from Greek tragedy. When millionaire heiress Sunny Von Bülow slipped into a coma in 1979 in her Newport, R.I., mansion, it wasn't long before the family began to suspect her husband Claus, a former aide to oil tycoon J. Paul Getty, as the culprit. The couple's marriage had been rocky — Claus' mistress later admitted she'd been pressuring him to leave his wife — and he would have forfeited the millions he stood to inherit from his wife if they divorced. Sunny recovered that time, but on Dec. 21, 1980, she was discovered unconscious again, and this time she wasn't so lucky. In one of the most sensational trials of the 1980s, Claus was found guilty of twice attempting to murder his hypoglycemic wife by injecting her with sedatives and insulin; he appealed and was acquitted in 1985. It didn't take long for Hollywood to latch on to the story: Reversal of Fortune, starring Glenn Close and Jeremy Irons as the ill-starred Von Bülows, premiered in 1990. Sunny died of cardio-pulmonary arrest in a Manhattan nursing home on Dec. 6, 27 years, 11 months and 15 days after she lost consciousness.