Affidavit: Sex while sons roasted
Heather Jensen was having sex with a man—with whom she described herself as “having an affair”—while a witness in the case said she smoked marijuana on the night her children overheated inside her Toyota 4Runner on Grand Mesa, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.
However, the Nov. 27 tragedy near Powderhorn Resort wasn’t the first time authorities had red flags about the welfare of young William and Tyler Jensen.
Jensen, 24, most recently a Palisade resident, was arrested Wednesday at her mother’s home in North Fort Myers, Fla., on a Mesa County warrant for suspicion of two counts of criminally negligent homicide, two counts of child abuse resulting in death while acting with negligence and one count of false reporting. The warrant, which has a $150,000 bond, was issued Wednesday morning.
Jensen’s timetable for return to Mesa County wasn’t immediately clear.
An affidavit in support of her arrest said 4-year-old Tyler Jensen, strapped in his car seat with the 4Runner’s engine running, was able to open the rear door while authorities believe temperatures were rising to deadly levels on the night of Nov. 27.
Colten Childers, the man who met Jensen that night near the resort, told investigators he could see the rear passenger-side door of Jensen’s SUV “open several times” as Heather Jensen was in his truck.
“Colten said the door opened as far as (Tyler’s) arm could reach,” the affidavit said.
He said he saw the movement around 5:40 p.m.
Jensen had the engine running on her vehicle since 5:15 p.m. The truck’s heater was later found by Mesa County Sheriff’s investigators “set to maximum heat,” but the fan was off.
“When he saw the door open Colten said Heather got out of his vehicle and went to Tyler’s door,” the affidavit said.
Heather Jensen gave Tyler her cell phone to play with, then shut the doors and engaged the child safety locks, he said.
She got back in his truck and they had sex in the back seat, finishing up around 6:10 p.m.
“When they finished they both got dressed and got out of his truck,” the affidavit said. “Colten said he smoked a cigarette while she went around his vehicle to urinate. Colten said when she finished she said she had to get going because she needed to pick up a prescription. Colten said they hugged and Heather got back into her vehicle, guessing it was around 6:20 p.m. at this point.”
The affidavit continues, “I asked if between 5:45 p.m. and 6:20 p.m., Heather ever left his vehicle to check on the boys. Colten said no.”
Heather Jensen phoned 911 at 6:29 p.m.
“If one considers when Heather went to check on the children (5:40 p.m.), then the children were left alone and unattended in her running vehicle for 40 minutes,” the affidavit said.
That’s about 65 minutes in the 4Runner from the time Jensen started the engine.
Asked to lie
Childers was interviewed three times in the investigation.
“It is important to note that Colten’s last account of events of what happened Nov. 27 is the most reliable and is corroborated by the investigation,” the affidavit said. “His accounts of events is very different than what Heather had reported to us during all her contacts with MCSO.”
Childers eventually told investigators Jensen had asked him to lie to police, that she “wanted him to leave when authorities showed up” on the night of Nov. 27.
“I asked if he thought that was odd considering everything that was happening at the time. Colten agreed it was odd she would be thinking about that when her kids were in distress,” the affidavit said.
William, 2, and Tyler, 4, died from hyperthermia, a condition when body temperature rises to dangerous levels, the Mesa County Coroner’s Office said last week. Forensic pathologist Dr. Robert Kurtzman ruled the deaths accidental. Kurtzman said the circumstances—pediatric death by overheating inside a vehicle during the wintertime—are extremely rare with just six reported cases in the United States since 1998, including the Jensen deaths.
Kurtzman wrote this in his autopsy report, while ruling the deaths accidental:
“Despite the likely unrecognized risk of hyperthermia in this case, the deliberate and reckless act of leaving the decedent brother in an unattended running motor vehicle constitutes neglect and is the sole cause directly responsible for the death(s)...” Kurtzman concluded, according to the affidavit. “Despite neglect being the direct participating factor for the death(s) .... deliberate intent to kill cannot be established with certainty.”
In tests run by Sheriff’s Department investigators on Heather Jensen’s SUV with the heater fan on various speeds, temperatures inside the running vehicle hit potentially deadly levels within a half-hour.
Temperatures rose from 48 to 52 degrees at the start to 114 and 123 degrees in a half-hour, the affidavit said.
In one hour to 90 minutes, they reached anywhere from 127 to 145 degrees.
Heather Jensen gave several stories to investigators on the night of Nov. 27, but eventually described “an affair” with Childers and her making arrangements to meet and let her boys play in the snow.
While Jensen told investigators the kids did play in the snow—at one point she said she’d removed their jackets because they were wet—Childers said the boys never left their mother’s 4Runner.
“When they first arrived, Heather gave Colten a hug and said to him, ‘You have never met my babies have you?’ ” the affidavit said, adding Jensen opened the passenger door and Childers observed both boys sleeping.
Heather Jensen declined all subsequent interview requests with the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department.
Another man, Peter Stein-Gillette, 24, told investigators he was dating Jensen while her husband, Eric, was still alive and said he’d started living with her two days after Eric’s death Oct. 10 in a traffic accident in Garfield County. He said he was ready to break up with her “because she kept lying,” while changing her stories about Nov. 27.
“Peter also wanted me to know that Heather had disclosed to him that she had been smoking ‘weed’ while on the Mesa with Colten,” the affidavit said.
Around 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 27—around the time of the known 911 phone call from Jensen—Stein-Gillette said Jensen texted him saying, “they were having fun and still up in the Mesa.”
“These times change somewhat during subsequent contacts with Peter,” an investigator wrote in the affidavit.
The affidavit said William and Tyler Jensen were already known to the Mesa County Department of Human Services’ division of child welfare before Nov. 27.
According to the affidavit, a neighbor of Jensen’s called Jan. 25, 2011, to report Heather Jensen smoking marijuana in front of her children. It allegedly occurred a full month before the report was made by the neighbor.
“DHS noted (reporting source) might be retaliating against Heather as (reporting source) had made another referral on a different family with the same information,” the affidavit said.
A second report, dated Aug. 2, was from a counselor concerned because “Heather had reported Tyler was sleeping at a neighbor’s house and someone heard an 11-year-old was asking Tyler to kiss something and Tyler said no, he didn’t want to,” the affidavit said.
The Palisade Police Department opened an investigation but closed the matter in six days as “non-criminal,” the affidavit said.