You might not remember the story of Sunny von Bulow. The reason may be that the heiress has lived in a comatose state for the past 28 years. She died last Saturday at the age of 76, surrounded by her children and nurses, but still giving no indication that she knew they were there.
Martha “Sunny” von Bulow started out life with a silver spoon in her mouth. She was the only child of utilities magnate George Crawford and Annie Laurie Warmack. When she was four years old, Sunny’s father died, leaving her millions of dollars. She briefly married His Serene Highness Prince Alfred of Auersperg, but the marriage only lasted eight years. It produced two children, Annie Laurie and Alexander Georg. By the time Sunny divorced the prince in 1965, she was worth $75 million dollars.
The next year, she would marry Claus von Bulow and they had a daughter Cosima. However, by the end of the ‘70s, the marriage was in shambles and both openly talked about divorce. On December 26, 1979, Sunny was found to be unresponsive and rushed to the hospital. She went into a coma, but after she came out of it, the doctors determined it was due to low blood sugar. She was hospitalized again in 1980 and diagnosed with reactive hypoglycemia. On December 21, 1980, while with her family for the holidays, she became disoriented and was put to bed. The next morning, she was taken to the hospital where she slipped into a persistent vegetative state.
What caused the coma was never completely understood. Some felt it was a drug overdose while others thought it was due to the hypoglycemia. Her two older children, Annie Laurie and Alexander thought Claus von Bulow had something to do with it. He was charged with attempted murder.
Claus von Bulow was convicted in 1982 of trying to kill his wife twice by injecting her with insulin. However, that conviction was overthrown in 1985. Cosima, the biological child of Claus and Sonny, sided with her father and was disinherited by her maternal grandmother Annie Laurie. In 1987, the older children still thought Claus had tried to kill Sunny and sued him. Claus voluntarily gave up any right to Sunny’s millions (including selling the story for profit) in exchange for the lawsuit being dropped and Cosima being reinstated into the will. He also divorced the heiress and left the country. In 1990, the story was made into the film Reversal of Fortune starring Glen Close as Sunny.
Sunny lived out the rest of her life, if you want to call it that, surrounded by medical staff in hospitals and nursing homes.