Martha “Sunny” von Bulow, whose husband was charged but never convicted of trying to kill her with an overdose of insulin, died on Saturday in a New York nursing home after 28 years in a coma, media reports said, quoting a statement from the family.
She was 76 years old.
The scandal made headlines in the 1980s as Sunny lay comatose and her husband, Claus von Bulow, went through two trials for attempted murder in her case.
In the end, he was acquitted. There was also some speculation that Sunny, who fought depression, may have tried to commit suicide, www.TruTV.com said.
The case became the basis for the 1990 film Reversal of Fortune starring Glenn Close and Jeremy Irons.
Sunny von Bulow, the heir to the fortune of her father, utilities magnate George Crawford, first married Austrian prince Alfred of Auersperg, a tennis instructor and member of the aristocracy, in 1957. They had two children before the marriage ended in divorce in 1965.
Prince Alfred died in 1992, also after lingering in a coma for nine years after an auto accident.
Sunny married von Bulow, the son of a prestigious Danish family, in 1966, at which time she was estimated to be worth more than US$75 million. She had a third child with him.
With her blonde hair and slender figure, von Bulow had often been compared to actress Grace Kelly.
On Dec. 22, 1980, family members found her unconscious in the bathroom of the family’s upscale Newport, Rhode Island, home.
A year earlier, she also fell into a coma but recovered, according to the TruTV Web site. At that time, she was diagnosed with low blood sugar.
Claus von Bulow’s defense attorney, Alan Dershowitz, was quoted by CNN as saying that Martha von Bulow’s death was “a sad ending to a sad tragedy that some members of her family tried to turn into a crime.”
“We proved overwhelming[ly] that there was no crime and that the coma was self-induced. We saved his life, but could not save hers,” he said.
Claus von Bulow now lives in London.
After his acquittal, the Auersperg children filed a civil suit against Claus von Bulow which was settled out of court. Von Bulow reportedly agreed to a divorce and any claim to Sunny’s money in exchange for the suit being dropped.
The von Bulows’ daughter, Cosima, sided with her father in the civil case, CNN reported.