Woman saw Jensen, boys in road on tragic night

Heather Jensen

Powderhorn resident Darlene Ritchey had “red flags” after meeting Heather Jensen on the night of Nov. 27, 2012, so she went home and wrote out a report about it.

Nobody asked her to document anything.

Ritchey told jurors in Jensen’s trial Thursday that she was driving home with her husband when she said they came up on two vehicles blocking the road near Powderhorn. A frantic woman said her baby wasn’t breathing. The woman, Jensen, asked if Ritchey knew CPR.

Jensen’s 4-year-old son, Tyler, was laid out in the road, labored with his breathing and vomiting. His little brother, William, 2, laid nearby with no pulse.

“She said they had been in the car, got out to smoke and had checked on the children 10 minutes before and they were asleep,” Ritchey testified.

She told jurors she felt compelled to go home and write down a report after overhearing Jensen tell a sheriff’s deputy the boys were left unattended for 30 minutes.

Testimony from the prosecution’s first few witnesses Thursday hammered on the same theme: Jensen told anybody who’d listen that her boys became gravely, and inexplicably, ill in a relatively short amount of time. Thursday was the third day of Jensen’s trial and the first look at the District Attorney’s case.

Dr. Brad Neese, who pronounced the death of William over the phone with an EMT on Grand Mesa and later tried to save Tyler’s life, testified that Jensen told him she’d taken the boys to play in the snow, and when William got tired, she put him in her SUV to sleep. She said she did the same with Tyler when he got tired, Neese said.

Within seconds of starting the drive home, she said she heard Tyler gurgling and pulled over.

“She said it was no more than 10 minutes that she wasn’t in her vehicle (with the boys),” Neese said.

Firefighter and paramedic Mark McIntire heard a similar story after responding to the scene near Powderhorn and found Jensen yelling, “My baby, my baby!”

Jensen explained she’d left the kids alone 10 minutes and “found them in this state,” McIntire said.

While attending to Tyler, McIntire asked a second time what happened and Jensen gave the same story and time frame.

A man near Jensen, later identified as Colten Childers, spoke up when he heard Jensen.

“It was longer than that,” Childers said, according to McIntire.

“My memory was she then said it was 15 minutes,” McIntire testified.

On cross examination, the paramedic said he wasn’t sure about the 15-minute period and said he didn’t document statements from Jensen about times in his official report.

Prosecutors have alleged William and Tyler were unattended in their mother’s Toyota 4Runner for up to 90 minutes with the heat running, which ultimately caused the boys’ deaths by hyperthermia, or overheating. Jensen, 25, is charged with two counts each of criminally negligent homicide, child abuse resulting in death with negligence, and false reporting to authorities.

For a second consecutive day, jurors Thursday watched and listened to an emotional Jensen in the morning and afternoon.

Testimony — specifically a recording of a 911 phone call made by Jensen — was briefly suspended when Jensen started wailing and sobbing from the defense’s table. District Judge Valerie Robison called for a break and Jensen was escorted by deputies to a holding cell for 10 minutes.

She was returned to her seat, more composed, and proceedings continued.

Jensen again wept, more quietly while dabbing her eyes with tissue, at times until the end of the 911 call.


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