But surely she was a grieving widow, trying to do the best for her kids?
It’d been a tough couple of months for Heather Jensen.
The 24-year-old had lost her husband Eric on 10 October 2012. He’d been killed when his car had been hit by a SUV. Now, Heather was bringing up their boys – Tyler, 4, and William, 2.
Thankfully, Heather quickly found love again. By 27 November 2012, her new bloke had moved in.
That same afternoon, Heather told her man she was taking the kids to play in the snow in nearby Powderhorn Mountain Ski resort, Grand Junction, Colorado.
But at 7pm, she made a frantic phone call to emergency services. William wasn’t breathing and he had no pulse. Tyler was barely breathing either…
Emergency services found little William couldn’t be saved. Tyler died in hospital a week later.
Heather told police she’d left her boys in her car with the heater on and the doors locked.
She’d only left them for 10 minutes, she said, when a male friend drove by and stopped to talk to her.
Autopsy reports showed the boys had died of hyperthermia – where the body dangerously overheats. Heartbroken, Heather insisted it was a tragic accident.
But Heather later admitted Tyler and William had actually been in the car for up to 90 minutes. Gradually, it transpired that during that time, Heather had been having sex with her male friend in his truck.
After 30 minutes, Tyler had managed to get out of the boiling car. But Heather had returned him, giving him her phone to play with.
When a child’s body washed ashore, it sparked a nationwide mystery…
A 13-year-old girl had been murdered in her bed...
She’d strapped her boy in, and locked them in the car – motor running and heater on. Safe and warm….
Not the best of mums, maybe. But surely she wasn’t a killer?
Then, a boyfriend said Heather had been smoking marijuana the day her sons had died. And, in the months before the tragedy, she’d failed a court-ordered drug test three times.
In January 2013, Heather was charged with criminally negligent homicide, child abuse resulting in death and false reporting.
At her trial, Heather denied the charges and refused a plea deal.
The defence said she had below-average IQ, which made her borderline developmentally disabled and unable to perceive the deadly risk of her actions. That she was a lonely widow who’d tried to protect her children. A psychologist said she had psychological problems, including poor impulse control, and a history of taking antidepressants.
Heather maintained she’d left the heater on to keep her children warm, that it’d been a terrible accident that they died from heat stroke.
However, the prosecution claimed she was a ‘selfish’, ‘lying’ mum, who ‘created the situation that caused her children to die’.
So had William and Tyler’s deaths been a terrible tragic accident? Or was Heather to blame?
Jurors found Heather Jensen, 25, guilty of child abuse resulting in death and false reporting. However, she was acquitted of criminally negligent homicide.
Jensen was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
By Rachel Tompkins