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Unwitting 'Reversal of Fortune' heroine dies after 28-year coma

Sunny von Bulow, the American heiress who was unwittingly the subject of one of the most sensational court cases of the last century, has died after nearly 28 years in a coma. Her husband was convicted and later acquitted of trying to kill her.

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AFP - Martha "Sunny" von Bulow, the American heiress who lingered for three decades in a vegetative state prosecutors alleged had been a result of her husband's efforts to kill her, died Saturday at age 76, a Manhattan nursing home said Sunday.

An official from the Mary Manning Walsh Home confirmed that Von Bulow died from cardiopulmonary arrest after spending nearly 28 years in a coma, which authorities alleged was a result of her husband's second attempt to kill her at their Newport, Rhode Island estate.

Despite being unconscious, von Bulow, daughter of utilities mogul George Crawford, was very much an offstage presence during the two sensational trials in the 1980s of Claus von Bulow, a Danish socialite convicted and later acquitted of trying to murder his wife twice with insulin injections, which would have aggravated her hypoglycemic condition.

Newport society and the global news media were transfixed by the trials that unveiled a dramatic story of a beautiful millionaire heiress and her foreign-born husband, suspected of wanting to kill his wife to steal away with the fortune and marry his mistress, a soap opera actress.

The drama also captured Hollywood's attention and was made into the 1990 film "Reversal of Fortune" by Barbet Schroeder starring Glenn Close and Jeremy Irons.

Von Bulow, who now lives in London, eventually gave up claims to his wife's fortune and agreed to divorce her.

After collapsing on the floor of her bathroom in December 1980, Sunny von Bulow never showed any signs of brain activity and was fed through a tube in her stomach, the nursing home indicated.

She had a first marriage to Prince Alfred von Auersperg, an Austrian professional tennis player with a playboy reputation. They had two children and subsequently divorced.

Sunny Von Bulow is survived by two daughters, a son and nine grandchildren.

 

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