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

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(Photo: Mesa County Sheriff’s Office)

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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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