Examining child abuse on the Western Slope

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Just four weeks into 2013 and already three people are in custody facing felony child abuse charges in Mesa County.

Ashleigh Wallace, 28, and Jessie Martinez, 30, were both charged yesterday with felony child abuse charges after Ashleigh's four-year-old son remains in critical condition. According to the arrest affidavit, Wallace waited two days before bringing her son to the hospital after Martinez allegedly severely beat him.

Heather Jensen was charged two weeks ago with two counts of child abuse resulting in death after allegedly leaving her two sons in her car, causing them to die of hyperthermia.

Meghan Ventling, family support advocate for Western Slope Center for Children, said it's the responsibility of all citizens to report suspected abuse.

"I think that people turn a blind eye, part is due to being so busy with what's going on in our own lives and also, we're really independent and isolated and I don't think people are paying as much attention to other people's kids as they should," Ventling said.

In 2012, the Western Slope Center for Children provided services for 243 cases of physical and sexual child abuse. Ninety percent of victims knew their abuser, and in more than 35 percent of those cases, the abuser was a parent, step-parent or significant other of a parent.

District Attorney Pete Hautzinger said child abuse cases are the most serious cases he handles.

"Anytime in this community that a child is injured in a criminal manner is a tragedy and all I can do is be as vigorous as I can in the prosecution of them."

If you witness abuse against a child occurring, call 9-1-1. If you suspect on-going child abuse may be happening, call the 24-hour hotline, 242-1211. Calls to the hotline remain anonymous.

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