*Warning – The information you are about to read may include discussions of true crimes, graphic details, and crime scenes, this may be too graphic for some people, please use discretion when reading*
This case intrigued me after watching the 1990 movie, Reversal of Fortune, starring Glenn Close and Jeremy Irons, who received an Academy Award for Best Actor. The movie was based on the book by Alan Dershowitz, who worked on the appeal for this case. Since the truth will never be known, it’s time for you to decide; did Claus von Bülow attempt to murder his wife Sunny, only to have her remain in a coma for the remainder of her life?
Sunny was born, Martha Sharp Crawford in 1932. She was given the nickname Sunny because of her disposition. Being the only child, she inherited $100 million USD upon her father’s death when she was only three years old.
In 1957, Sunny married Prince Alfred von Auersperg, who came from a distinctive family line, but was impoverished due to the collapse of the Empire, and was Sunny’s tennis instructor at a Swiss resort. They had two children together, and divorced in 1965.
In June of 1966, Sunny married Claus von Bülow, and had a daughter in 1967. The couple were both having significant stresses in their marriage and spoke openly of divorce.
The First Coma
December 26, 1979, after having spent time with the family for Christmas at Claredon Court in Rhode Island, Sunny was found unresponsive and was rushed to the hospital where she slipped into a coma, but was revived. In April of 1980, she was hospitalized again for being incoherent and disoriented, it was reconfirmed that she was suffering from reactive hypoglycemia and advised to follow a strict diet, limit sugar and avoid alcohol.
The Last Coma
Again in December, this time in 1980, while celebrating Christmas at Clarendon Court, Sunny again displayed confusion and incoordination. The next morning she was found unconscious on her bathroom floor. When she was taken to the hospital it was clear that she had suffered severe brain injuries to produce a persistent vegetative state. Claus, did not want to terminate life support, even though it was alleged by Sunny’s two oldest children that he did.
After this incident, Sunny’s eldest children were suspicious that her injury was the result of foul play by Claus. In July of 1981 Claus was charged with two counts of attempted murder.
The Trials and Appeal
Claus went to trial in February 1982 and the prosecution presented circumstantial evidence supported by testimony from various maids, chauffeurs, doctors and others, when an expert testified that he was convinced the brain damage suffered by Sunny was the result of injected insulin, Claus was convicted.
Claus hired Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz for his appeal. Dershowitz had a team of lawyers and law students helping him with the appeal and it had to be a total victory and obliterate the prosecutions case. As they were successful in their appeal, Claus von Bülow’s conviction was overturned.
At the second trial, the defense was more prepared and provided more expert testimony. During the trial, one expert witness recanted his testimony from the first trial and stated that “neither he nor anyone else could ever be 100% certain of the cause of the comas.” Claus was found not guilty on the attempted murder charges.
Claus von Bülow officially divorced Sunny as part of the agreement in the civil case brought against him by Sunny’s two oldest children. He left the United States and lived the rest of his life peacefully in London. Dying in 2019 at the age of 92.
Sunny von Bülow remained in a nursing home in a vegetative state until she passed away in 2008 at the age of 76. She never recovered from her coma.
That my friends is the mystery of Sunny von Bülow. Unfortunately we will never truly know why she went into a persistent vegetative state, or who may have done it. I would love to hear your take and opinions on this case. Please let me know in the comments.
Please be ever alert, make good choices, stay safe