Toddlers to be buried, finally

Diane and Robert Mathena are relieved Monday after a district court judge gave them permission to bury their two toddler grandsons next to their deceased father, Eric Jensen, in Palisade Municipal Cemetery. The couple has been fighting since the boys’ deaths in late November to keep their mother from having their bodies cremated. The children’s mother, Heather Jensen, is charged with criminally negligent homicide in their deaths.

William and Tyler Jensen, the young brothers who died as a result of hyperthermia after their mother, Heather Jensen, left them in a heated sport utility vehicle Nov. 27 atop the Grand Mesa, will be laid to rest Thursday at Palisade Cemetery.

A funeral service will precede the burial at 1 p.m. Thursday at Palisade Funeral Home.

The Jensen boys’ paternal grandmother, Diane Mathena, gained the right to arrange and pay for the boys’ funeral services and burial at a hearing Monday afternoon in Mesa County District Judge Thomas Deister’s courtroom. Jensen did not attend the hearing.

Mathena filed for an injunction in December to prevent Heather Jensen from proceeding with her plans to have the boys cremated. The injunction was issued Dec. 10 after Mathena paid $5,000 security to cover costs in case the court later decided Jensen was wrongly kept from cremating her sons’ bodies.

The injunction order noted Jensen would not be allowed under Colorado law to decide what happened to William and Tyler’s remains if she were arrested or charged with a felony in connection with the boys’ deaths. She was arrested Jan. 16 on suspicion of criminally negligent homicide, among other charges.

Deister decided to make the temporary injunction against Jensen permanent due to her arrest and granted Mathena the right to custody of the boys’ bodies because she had the money and desire to handle their funeral and burial arrangements. Deister said Monday only the Mesa County Department of Human Services, which had custody of Tyler Jensen when he died Dec. 3, had priority over Mathena to decide what would happen to his remains. A representative of the department deferred to Deister’s judgment and declined to argue for priority over Mathena.

Mathena’s lawyer, Greg Leavitt, said the family expects to pay $5,995 to cover funeral expenses at Palisade Funeral Home and burial expenses at Palisade Municipal Cemetery. Leavitt said the family has all but $565 of that amount in a bank account for the boys’ burial costs. The return of the $5,000 security money will help cover the remaining amount and the any money left over will be donated to Taylor Elementary School, where Tyler attended preschool, according to Mathena’s husband, Robert Mathena.

Robert Mathena said it will give the family comfort to bury William, 2, and Tyler, 4, next to their father, Eric Jensen, in Palisade Cemetery. Eric Jensen died in a car accident in October.

“He loved those kids more than life itself,” Mathena said of his stepson. “That’s why we fought so hard.”


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