A Colorado woman whose sons died of hyperthermia after allegedly being left in her car while she was having sex in another vehicle has been charged with child abuse and negligent homicide.
Heather Lynn Jensen, 24, was arrested in Fort Myers, Florida Wednesday in connection with the 2012 deaths of 2-year-old William and 4-year-old Tyler Jensen. According to the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, she has waived extradition in Florida and is being held without bond pending her return to Mesa, Colorado.
The Mesa County Sheriff’s Office would not release details on the status of the extradition and transportation process Friday, citing security concerns.
At approximately 6:29 p.m. on November 27, 2012, Jensen called 911 to report that William was not breathing and had no pulse, according to court documents. She was off Highway 65 near the Powderhorn Ski Resort in Mesa at the time. She later told a dispatcher that Tyler was also unconscious, but he was breathing and making a “gurgling” sound.
Paramedics who responded to the scene said Jensen was “very vague” about what had happened, according to an arrest affidavit, but she told them she left the children in her Toyota 4-Runner with the heat on. The affidavit states Jensen told a Mesa County Sheriff’s Office deputy she had left them alone in the vehicle for about ten minutes while she smoked a cigarette and talked to a friend.
William Jensen was pronounced dead at the scene, but Tyler was transported to a hospital in critical condition. He died at Children’s Hospital in Denver on December 3.
In subsequent interviews with investigators, Jensen’s story allegedly changed. According to the affidavit, Jensen said she had arranged to meet a male friend who she was having “an affair” with near the ski resort that afternoon. At that point, she allegedly admitted she left the boys alone in the car for 90 minutes.
Authorities initially assumed the boys died from carbon monoxide poisoning, but blood tests suggested that was not the case. Investigators found no defects or leaks in Jensen’s car’s exhaust system, and they discovered that the heat was set to the maximum level with the fan off.
Tests showed carbon monoxide levels in the vehicle were not harmful, according to the affidavit. Two experiments with the car’s heating system indicated the temperature inside could have reached up to 136 degrees with the heat on for an hour and the windows rolled up.
On December 12, investigators contacted an attorney representing Jensen, Ed Nugent, who declined to allow them to interview her again, the affidavit states. Nugent has not returned a call from HLN seeking comment on the case.
Detectives did interview the man Jensen was allegedly having the affair with several times, however. According to the timeline based on information investigators say he provided:
- Jensen arrived at Powderhorn to meet him around 4:00 p.m. and turned off her engine.
- After five or ten minutes of talking outside their vehicles, Jensen showed him the two boys asleep in her backseat.
- Around 5:00 p.m., he and Jensen got into his truck.
- About 15 minutes after that, Jensen went back to her car and turned the engine on, then returned to his vehicle.
- Around 5:40, Jensen returned to her car for a few minutes and gave Tyler her cell phone to play with.
- After she came back, they moved to the backseat of his truck and “had sexual relations.”
- She returned to her vehicle around 6:20.
He said Jensen drove away first, but as he was driving back to the highway a few minutes later, he saw her pulled over on the side of the road taking Tyler out of her car. He stopped to help and she asked him to check on William, who was still in the backseat and was not breathing, according to the affidavit.
Authorities estimate that the two boys were in the car with the heat on and nobody present to adjust the temperature for about 65 minutes. They were allegedly unattended for about 40 minutes after Jensen went to check on them around 5:40.
Autopsies concluded that the boys’ cause of death was hyperthermia and that the manner of death was accidental. However, the medical examiner wrote that Jensen’s “deliberate and reckless act” of leaving them alone in the car was “the sole cause directly responsible” for their deaths.
Jensen was charged with two counts of child abuse resulting in death, two counts of criminally negligent homicide and one count of false reporting to authorities. She will make her first court appearance in Colorado, where she may enter a plea on the charges, once she returns from Florida.