DA to focus on drugs at Jensen sentencing
In a preview of arguments for Heather Jensen’s sentencing, a Mesa County prosecutor is calling attention to Jensen’s history of marijuana use, among other substances.
Assistant District Attorney Rich Tuttle filed a submission to District Judge Valerie Robison, asking the judge to consider Jensen’s alleged history of flunked drug tests in 2012 while under the supervision of Mesa County Criminal Justice Services, in addition to statements she allegedly made to a Mesa County Sheriff’s investigator and a psychologist who evaluated her.
The psychologist, Dr. John Gustavson of Grand Junction, was the lone witness called by Jensen’s defense team during her trial.
Tuttle’s filing quotes a section of Gustavson’s five-page evaluation of Jensen, indicating that Jensen disclosed she’d “smoked marijuana for several years on the average of three times a day, to help her relax, but denies legal, social, medical or other work problems related to this.”
As context for the statement, Tuttle notes, Jensen was evaluated at the Mesa County Jail seven months after her January 2013 arrest in connection with the incident Nov. 27, 2012, which killed her sons William, 2, and Tyler, 4.
Drug use or abuse was never raised in Jensen’s trial in January.
Jensen, 25, could be sentenced on Friday by Robison to anywhere from 4 to 16 years in prison, per count, following her conviction on two counts of child abuse resulting in her sons’ deaths. Probation is also a possibility. Jensen on Jan. 31 was also acquitted of lesser charges, including two counts of criminally negligent homicide.
Jurors found that Jensen failed to perceive a substantial risk to the “life or health” of her sons on Nov. 27, 2012, when she left them inside her Toyota 4Runner with the heater running near Powderhorn and as she was having sex with a man in a nearby vehicle. The boys died of hyperthermia, or overheating.
Tuttle wrote in his sentencing submission that Robison should consider Jensen’s performance while serving probation in Mesa County. Jensen received an 18-month deferred judgment after pleading guilty to third-degree assault, stemming from her March 2012 arrest for a domestic violence incident with her late husband, Eric. In alleged violations of probation, Jensen failed three court-ordered drug tests in the months leading up to the Nov. 27 incident near Powderhorn, including positive tests for marijuana on March 21, 2012; Oct. 8, 2012; and Oct. 26, 2012. A fourth positive urinalysis for marijuana was received Dec. 13, 2012.
Despite the positive tests, a request for an arrest warrant for failure to comply wasn’t filed by Mesa County authorities until Dec. 27, 2012.
Under investigation in her sons’ deaths, Jensen in December 2012 left Grand Junction for Florida in an alleged violation of the terms of her deferred judgment and despite being denied permission by County Court Judge Bruce Raaum to leave the state.
Tuttle’s filing also points to Jensen’s interview, on the night of Nov. 27, 2012, with sheriff’s investigator Jim Hebenstreit, when Jensen denies using marijuana, but acknowledges a prior addiction to pain medication from which she “got clean” a year prior. She said she was using anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medications.
In the same interview, Jensen first denied leaving her children alone in her truck, before adding she might have left them alone 15 to 20 minutes while she smoked a cigarette.
Jensen’s supporters, meanwhile, have also filed appeals to the judge. A mitigation packet from Jensen’s public defenders includes letters from more than a dozen family members, friends or community members.
“Heather will be punished forever by no longer having her children and knowing her role in their deaths,” Grand Junction resident Cynthia Fenster wrote to Robison. “A prolonged sentence will just compound her grief. Please consider Heather’s perhaps reckless, but certainly non-intentional miscalculation and evaluate her sentence carefully.”