Martha “Sunny” von Bulow Passes Away Years after Husband’s Acquittal
By: Gerri L Elder
Heiress and socialite Martha “Sunny” von Bulow passed away on Dec. 6, after spending most of the last 28 years in an irreversible coma. CNN reported that she was 76-years-old when she died.
Von Bulow’s condition made national headlines in the 1980s when her husband, Claus, was accused of attempting to murder her. Prosecutors in the high profile criminal case alleged that Claus injected his wife with an overdose of insulin, which induced the coma.
Claus was convicted of attempting to murder Sunny on two occasions, but his criminal conviction was overturned on appeal. At his second trial in 1985, he won an acquittal.
Sunny von Bulow was born into a wealthy family and later inherited a fortune of more than $75 million. As a young woman, she was compared to actress Grace Kelly.
She during her first marriage to Prince Alfred von Auersperg of Austria she had two children, Alexander and Annie Laurie. In 1966, she married Claus von Bulow and had a daughter, Cosima.
On Dec. 22, 1980, family members found Sunny unconscious, laying on the bathroom floor of the Bulow’s luxury home in Newport, R.I. After that morning, she never regained consciousness.
A year earlier, Sunny had been hospitalized after lapsing into a coma but recovered. She was diagnosed with hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar.
After Sunny fell into her second coma, Claus von Bulow was accused of injecting her with insulin both times in an attempt to kill her. High profile criminal defense attorney Alan Dershowitz won Claus a new trial after he was convicted on the attempted murder charges.
During the appeal, Dershowitz was able to convince a jury that Sunny’s comas were self-induced and that Claus had not committed a crime. Claus’ criminal defense team painted Sunny as an alcoholic and drug abuser, contending that these lifestyle choices caused her to fall into the comas.
Alexander von Auersperg and Ala von Auersperg Isham sided with the prosecution in the case against Claus von Bulow. After their former stepfather was acquitted, they filed a civil lawsuit against him. The lawsuit was settled out of court in 1987, after Claus agreed to waive his claim to his wife’s money and divorce her.
Cosima stuck by her father’s side during the legal proceedings.
According to Vanity Fair writer Dominick Dunne, Sunny was transferred from Columbia Presbyterian hospital to a private nursing home in 1998.
A private memorial service was held for family and friends of Sunny von Bulow, followed by a private burial.