For deaths of sons, judge sentences Jensen to decade
Mesa County District Court Judge Valerie Robison sentenced Heather Jensen to 10 years in prison Friday, saying that throwing the book at Jensen for her sons’ deaths was inappropriate.
This, not too long after Jensen addressed the judge.
“I know if you give me this opportunity, I will not let you down,” Jensen told the judge, apologizing for “poor judgment” while expressing an interest in becoming a grief counselor.
“I have to live with this for the rest of my life,” she said.
Jensen’s statement capped an emotion-packed hearing, which included a series of explosive claims by families on both sides.
Robison could have sentenced Jensen anywhere from four to 16 years in prison for each of two counts of child abuse resulting in death with negligence. She also could have imposed probation.
Jensen, in custody since January 2013, was credited with 14 months of pre-sentence confinement against her sentence. She must also serve five years of mandatory parole upon her release from prison.
All of which will be too soon for Robert and Diane Mathena, the grandparents of William, 2, and Tyler, 4, who filed a lawsuit against their mother to win burial rights.
“It’s (expletive)-ed up,” Robert Mathena said, leaving Robison’s courtroom.
He added, “Our victory was burying those kids.”
Robison said the case was “horribly difficult” to judge and also lectured on parenting before announcing her sentence.
“One of the things we as parents are required to do is to put our children before ourselves, and if we don’t, bad things can happen,” she said. “It’s up to us as parents and community members to protect them. They deserve it. They require it.”
Jensen, 25, cried in the arms of public defender Thea Reiff after most of Friday’s onlookers filed out of Robison’s courtroom. Jensen’s defense has said they will pursue an appeal.
She was convicted Jan. 31 by a Mesa County jury on two counts of child abuse resulting in death, with negligence, but acquitted on two lesser charges, Class-5 felony criminally negligent homicide.
She was also found guilty of misdemeanor false reporting.
Prosecutors argued that Jensen should have known her boys could die by leaving them unattended in her 4Runner with the heat running on Nov. 27, 2012, while she had sex with a man. William died at the scene, while Tyler was removed from life support days later at Children’s Hospital in Aurora.
The deaths were determined to be the result of hyperthermia, or overheating.
Mesa County forensic pathologist Dr. Robert Kurtzman testified the Jensen brothers were among just six cases of pediatric hyperthermia death inside a vehicle during wintertime on record in the United States.
Jensen’s defense argued the deaths were accidental, while accusing prosecutors of a sideshow focused on sex, lying and infidelity.
Robert Mathena told the judge Friday that Jensen was working as a prostitute in the Grand Valley. Mathena told Robison he’d learned about it on the day of William and Tyler’s funeral in a conversation with the owners of a local hotel.
Reiff told the judge Jensen denies the allegation and said her client was “hurt” by it. The claim was raised for the first time in court Friday.
Mathena’s son and Heather Jensen’s husband, Eric, was killed in a car accident in Garfield County in October 2012.
“She’s not always been the brightest crayon in the box, but she’s been a very loving girl,” Sherry Holesapple, Jensen’s mother, told the judge. “Eric was her rock.”