Sunday, December 7, 2008

Martha 'Sunny' von Bulow dies: Her life a high society drama

Here is an update on an interesting real-life story that is very soapy and has a soap connection.

Martha "Sunny" von Bulow, the heiress who spent nearly the last 28 years in a coma as a result of what Rhode Island prosecutors alleged was a second murder attempt by her husband, Claus, died yesterday morning in a nursing home on the Upper East Side of New York City.

During the many years that she lay in a vegetative state in a private, guarded room at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital and then, for the past decade, in the nursing home, Sunny von Bulow was not on any life support system. She was fed through a tube in her stomach, Connelly said.

Doctors said she showed no signs of brain activity, but her nurses took care to play her favorite music, “mostly classical” and there were always fresh flowers in her room. Her bedside table was adorned with photographs of her children and grandchildren, according to Connelly.

Mrs. von Bulow lapsed into her irreversible coma on Dec. 21, 1980, when she was found cold and unconscious on the floor of her bathroom in her Newport mansion, Clarendon Court, on Bellevue Avenue.

Her husband, Claus von Bulow, a Danish socialite, was later accused of twice trying to murder her with insulin injections, once in December 1979 and again a year later at their Newport home. His main accusers were her children from her first marriage, Annie Laurie “Ala” von Auersperg Kneissl (now Isham) and Alexander von Auersperg. They hired a private investigator to look into the matter and prosecutors then took the case to a grand jury.

Martha Crawford got the nickname "Sunny" because of her disposition. She was gorgeous but painfully shy. Based on testimony presented by the defense at Claus von Bulow’s second trial, she was also an unhappy woman who overused prescription drugs, laxatives, aspirin and alcohol. During her husband’s second trial, the defense argued that a needle found in a black bag in the couple’s mansion did not show traces of insulin, as the prosecution contended, and that Mrs. von Bulow’s comas had been caused by her own self-destructive behavior and chronic health conditions.

But the prosecution argued that Claus von Bulow was the culprit –– that he’d tried to kill his wife by injecting her with insulin so he could inherit her fortune and marry a soap opera actress with whom he was having an affair.

That soap opera actress (and alleged motive) was Alexandra Moltke, who is best known for her role as Victoria Winters on DARK SHADOWS (she goes by the name of Alexandra Isles now).

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