Candlelight vigil honors two Palisade brothers

Diane Mathena, right, and Robert Mathena, the grandmother and stepgrandfather of William and Tyler Jensen, gather with about 75 other mourners Friday night for a candlelight vigil honoring the children, who died two weeks ago near Powderhorn Ski Resort in their mother’s sport utility vehicle. The vigil was in Palisade’s Riverbend Park.

Just weeks ago, it wouldn’t have been uncommon to see William and Tyler Jensen running around and throwing rocks in the Colorado River at Palisade’s Riverbend Park.

On Friday night, an hour after dusk, the brothers could be there only in spirit as about 75 people gathered in a shelter at the park, lit candles and shared memories of the young boys.

Two-year-old William died Nov. 27
after his mother, Heather Jensen, found him not breathing in the back of her Toyota 4Runner after she left him in the SUV for an hour and a half on Grand Mesa, she told Mesa County sheriff’s investigators.

Four-year-old Tyler, who was also in the vehicle, was flown to Children’s Hospital in Aurora after the incident but was taken off life support and died Monday.

The parents, children and grandparents who gathered to remember the Jensen boys Friday in Palisade said the brothers had short but fun lives. They lamented the way each boy died, although questions still remain about what exactly caused their deaths, pending the public release of autopsy results.

Many shared support for Robert and Diane Mathena, the brothers’ step-grandfather and grandmother, who are fighting for custody of William and Tyler’s bodies.

The boys’ bodies are in the care of Callahan-Edfast Mortuary. Their mother reportedly wants them cremated, but the Mathenas want to bury the boys next to their father, Eric Jensen, who died in a car crash Oct. 10 in Garfield County.

Mesa County District Judge Thomas Deister granted an emergency injunction Thursday to prevent the mortuary from cremating the bodies, but he said the Mathenas must pay a $5,000 security bond before the injunction can be issued. The Mathenas’ attorney, Greg Leavitt, deposited $2,300 toward the bond Friday.

The money came from door-to-door and word-of-mouth fundraising and donations to the Tyler William Jensen Fund at US Bank.

Leavitt said he even received a message Friday on his office line from a woman who had already donated but wanted to give another $500.

Donations can be made to the fund at any US Bank branch, and friends and family are collecting money for the bond.

Robert Mathena prayed at Friday’s candlelight vigil for God to help the family attain its goals.

He also thanked God for the 26 years the family had with Eric, the four years they were able to spend with Tyler and the two short years they had with William.

“It’s so hard sometimes to understand why these things happen. But I know they are happy and playing” in heaven, Mathena said.

Staff writer Paul Shockley contributed to this report.


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