Jury will hear statements by Jensen in sons’ deaths
Palisade mother Heather Jensen’s statements to law enforcement in the hours after a fatal incident on Grand Mesa involving her sons were made voluntarily, and were not the result of coercive tactics by Mesa County Sheriff’s investigators, a Mesa County judge has ruled.
In a 17-page ruling issued Monday but made public Wednesday, District Judge Valerie Robison denied a defense motion seeking to suppress Jensen’s statements made at various points on Nov. 27, 2012, after law enforcement responded that night to Jensen’s 911 phone call from Grand Mesa and found her unresponsive sons, William, 2, and Tyler, 4.
Robison’s ruling hands a key victory to prosecutors, who’ve charged Jensen, 25, with criminally negligent homicide, child abuse resulting in death and false reporting in the deaths of her boys. She’s scheduled for trial over two weeks starting Oct. 28.
According to court records, Jensen made a series of admissions to law enforcement on the night of Nov. 27, including a statement she’d taken her sons to Grand Mesa that day to let the boys play in the snow. She later altered her story, saying she instead made arrangements to meet a male friend near Powderhorn. Authorities have alleged she was having sex with a man in his vehicle while leaving the boys unattended for approximately 65 minutes in her SUV as the heating system was running.
William and Tyler died as a result of hyperthermia, or overheating.
Jensen’s defense had argued the statements weren’t voluntary, either at the scene, at St. Mary’s Hospital or at the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department.
In a hearing Sept. 13, public defender Elsa Archambault noted Jensen was questioned by a uniformed deputy in a patrol car during a 40-minute drive from the scene at Powderhorn to St. Mary’s Hospital, where her sons were being treated. Those circumstances caused Jensen to believe she wasn’t free to leave, or decline to answer questions, Archambault argued. She also argued Jensen was physically and emotionally exhausted.
Robison, however, noted Sheriff’s Deputy Tim Orr was asked by a friend of Jensen’s to give Jensen a ride to the hospital, noting Jensen wasn’t forced to travel with the deputy in his patrol car.
“There were no overt or implied threats or promises directed to the defendant to obtain her agreement to talk to Deputy Orr,” Robison’s ruling noted. “There was no evidence presented to indicate that the defendant asked or attempted to leave.”
Jensen was never “in custody” on Nov. 27, and therefore, she wasn’t entitled to a Miranda warning advising of her right to remain silent, Robison concluded.