Trial begins for Palisade mom whose kids died when left in SUV

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(Photo: Mesa County Sheriff's Office)

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. — A trial began this week for a Palisade mom whose kids died from overheating when they were left in her SUV while she allegedly met a man to have sex.

Opening statements began Wednesday, according to KKCO, with prosecutors portraying Heather Jensen as a selfish liar who issued her two children a death sentence when she locked them in her vehicle while she went off to have sex.

Jensen’s defense attorneys characterized Jensen as a lonely, troubled widow trying to protect her kids by leaving the heat on to keep them warm. Jensen’s lawyers also said their client has an IQ 76, which is borderline developmentally disabled, and blamed any poor choices she may have made not only on her lack of intelligence, but on her young age and the death of her husband.

Jensen is 25 years old, and her husband died two months before the incident in a car wreck. She sobbed loudly in the courtroom Wednesday as the opening statements were read. Day three of the trial was set to proceed on Thursday.

Jensen is being charged with child abuse resulting in death, false reporting, and — the most serious charge — criminally negligent homicide, which is defined as “a gross deviation from the standard of care expected of a reasonable person that manifests in a failure to protect others from risk making one criminally liable as a result of their conduct.”

The charges were filed in connection with the death of Jensen’s two sons, Tyler, 4, and William, 2. The two died from complications related to hypothermia and overheating on Nov. 27, 2013, after sitting by themselves in her SUV in a parking lot near the Powederhorn Ski Resort.

According to an arrest affidavit, Jensen locked her children in the vehicle for 90 minutes while she had sex with a man in a truck parked nearby.

In the months leading up to her fateful and fatal choice to leave her two children in a running vehicle, the Palisade mother also failed three different court-ordered drug tests and violated her parole when she fled to Florida, according to a report.

The Grand Junction Sentinel reported that Heather Jensen took the drug tests to satisfy the conditions of her probation. She pleaded guilty to third-degree assault and received an 18-month deferred judgment, with the Mesa County District Attorney’s Office agreeing to erase the conviction if she met the terms of her probation. Failing those tests put her in violation of her probation, so she has legal issues on that front, as well

Jensen was arrested in January at her mother’s home in North Fort Myers, Fla.

Court documents indicated that Jensen tested positive for THC, the primary intoxicant in marijuana, on three occasions in the months before she left her kids locked in her vehicle.

Mesa County Criminal Justice Services Director Dennis Berry told the Sentinel that the handling of Jensen’s probation was typical, meaning it was not out of the ordinary that her deferred judgment was yet to be revoked despite repeatedly failing the terms of her probation.

“Generally, on the first positive (for marijuana), we’ll deal with it internally, but a second we won’t,” Berry told the newspaper.

That second positive test on Oct. 8 likely led to a discussion between Jensen and her treatment provider, Berry said, and the court wouldn’t have viewed the positive test on Oct. 26 as a third offense because the THC leftover in Jensen’s system would likely have been considered “residual.”

While she did not fail a fourth test on Dec. 13, court documents indicated that the test indicated “new drug use” by Jensen. Berry suspects test is what set the wheels in motion to revoke her deferred judgment.

When the court found out that Jensen was living in Florida, it was determined that yet another term of her probation had been violated.

Jensen submitted a hand-written letter to a Mesa County judge on Dec. 11, according to the Sentinel. She was seeking to be released from the terms of her probation that stipulated she had to remain in Colorado.

“I believe it would be a great opportunity for me to start my life over again in Florida, and being surrounded by all my family who loves me to help me get through the losses I’ve had in this past month,” Jensen wrote. “And I would greatly appreciate it if you will let me move on with my life in Florida.”

The district attorney’s office said the court did not issue an approval of Jensen’s request to leave, and said she decided to relocate in spite of that fact.

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17 comments

  • What

    This woman does not deserve to be called a Mother she is a monster, Two months prior her husband passed away yet she was grieving so much she is already sleeping with someone? Those two boys lives were cut short because of her immaturity and negligence. I pray for those two boys, any way you cut it this is a horrible tragedy and she should pay for what she has done.

  • Wendy Barnes

    Why do we allow people with a criminal history to repeatedly violate parole or probation with no consequences? If she had been returned to jail the first time, the kids would have been in a foster home or grandma may have come up there to watch them. Personally, I do not believe she is smart enough to fully comprehend what she has done.

  • Ali Webb

    An IQ of 76 is considered ‘borderline intelligence’. It is also considered to be ‘borderline mental retardation’. Does that matter in this case? Of course it does. It would matter in any case where an adult was expected to make intelligent adult decisions, certainly in regards to the welfare of children. This woman is barely functioning comparative to other adults within the normal range of intelligence. Any judicial outcome in this matter has to address the extreme limits of her ability to know what she has done. Would you put your children in the care of anyone who you knew was a borderline mentally retarded individual? Nope. Would you hold them to the same level of competence and responsibility as someone who functioned at a normal level? Nope – not if you were being ‘intellectually honest’.

  • AuntieC

    Just wondering how the IQ result was determined. Any one can claim a diminished level of intelligence in hopes of avoiding consequences of poor behavior.

    If testing was performed via a professional then it could be a consideration. Although use of an online IQ test could be fudged to meet a specific level of lowered intelligence.

    Realize her husband died six weeks prior to the incident. Then she invited a boyfriend into her home shortly after funeral. Finally another boyfriend was met for a fling.

    So with that being defined, where is her concerned for her children. Not on the radar as she needed to fulfill her needs and assumed the boys were not her concern

    She clearly has a history of putting her needs before the innocent boys.

    Negligence is obvious in this matter

  • Bob

    They actually died of Hyperthermia, not Hypothermia. Which means she basically broiled them to death. There have also been some questions raised related to her husbands suspicious “accident”, that have still not been answered. She probably got a low score on the test on purpose yo help her case. She’s not as “dumb” as she wants everyone to think.

  • AuntieC

    @Bob
    Please use restraint with definition of the boys death. Consideration needs to be made for family members who read these post. It’s difficult enough to deal with this tragedy without having complete strangers paint such images.

    Also the two incidents are completely separate. Focus on the charges being faced at this time.

  • Test

    Repeated parole violations and yet children are left in her care?

    She was not the only person who failed these children.

  • CR

    Her IQ should be argued. If she was smart enough to think to turn the heat on in the vehicle to keep the children warm, she should have the intelligence to know the danger she put them in by leaving them alone for such a long period of time with the heat on full blast. A poor defense by her lawyers.

  • scoop

    S2 brings up the Aurora shooting and last I read there were arguments of whether he was mentally fit to stand trial. My opinion is that he knew exactly what he was doing by all the purchases he made prior to the shooting and by rigging his appt to kill those who would enter. Those actions shows forethought, and as such I hope that he gets the death penalty. My point in this case is that she put on the child locks to keep them in and not bother her, thus knowing that they were stuck. She may not have known it would kill them, but she knew that they were trapped and in my opinion she is a just as terrible and useless as the Aurora shooter and tons of other criminals who harm others. I say you purposely harm others, that should be a death sentence. Too many of these things happen each day that people are being killed or their lives changed forever and the argument is to keep the sentence low and spare the life. If sentences in this country would start to really be a deterrent then maybe these events do not happen. Maybe not this one as it seems she was too selfish, but if the sentence was that harsh others will stop being as selfish.

  • Jessica Becker

    I hope she goes away for a loong time, that is so sick an demented!get a sitter!i can’t believe someone could do that to their kids maybe ppl with a low iq shouldn’t be able to have kids then

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