Time running out in fight for custody of Jensen bodies

By: Andie Adams and Christy Dimond Email
By: Andie Adams and Christy Dimond Email
The injunction that put a two-week hold on the case is about to expire on Thursday.

William (left) and Tyler (right) are seen here in a picture from their father's Facebook page.

MESA COUNTY, Colo. (KKCO) – Time is running out in the battle for the rights to determine how the remains of William and Tyler Jensen's bodies will handled. The lawyer for the boys' grandparents, Robert and Diane Mathena, filed an injunction on December 6th to put a hold on the case for two weeks, preventing anything to be done to the bodies.

The injunction expires on Thursday, but an outcome has not yet been determined.

"We went out and already picked out a casket and burial plot," Robert said. "We looked at the headstone. We've got all our ducks in a row for as soon as we can do it and as soon as they release the bodies, within three days we should have them buried."

"It's very important and somewhat of a closure," Diane said. "[William and Tyler] deserve this."

The Mathenas said they are incredibly grateful for the support they've received from community members, many of whom are strangers. So far, more than $9,000 has been donated to the William Tyler Jensen Memorial Fund to help the Mathenas with expenses.

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Two weeks have passed since the tragic incident on the Grand Mesa that left two young boys dead after allegedly being left in their mother's car. No arrests have been filed in the case against the boys' mother, Heather Jensen, or anyone at this time.

Meanwhile, a former friend and next-door neighbor of Heather's, Amber Casto, spoke with KKCO 11 News exclusively about her experience living next door to the family.

"I got to know [Heather] too well for my own comfort," Casto said. "She popped a lot of pills, she smoked a lot of weed, she drank a lot of alcohol and was a user. To top it off, she would use anybody for anything she possibly could."

Casto said she stopped being friends with Heather shortly after Casto moved next door to her last November. Casto recounted Heather locking her sons in their rooms and leave them for hours.

"You could hear her screaming and yelling at those kids through the walls, cussing them out," Casto said. "They would sit in their bedrooms for hours and hours on end just screaming at the top of their lungs ... she would lock them in their bedrooms because she didn't want to deal with them."

Casto says she knows of three separate people who contacted the Department of Human Services about Heather, but nothing came of it.

"When she wanted the boys to go to sleep she would give them Tylenol, she would give them Nyquil, she would give them numerous things to make them go to sleep at night so they would sleep," she said.

Casto believes Heather intentionally killed her two sons because "she didn't want to be a mother." Meanwhile, Casto waits for justice while mending the heartache over the boys' deaths.

"It makes me extremely mad because those little boys did not deserve this, they definitely did not deserve this," she said. "William and Tyler's family, not Heather, the rest of William and Tyler's family would've been more than willing to take those boys and raise them, any of them would've, and instead of doing that, she killed them."

KKCO 11 News requested numerous documents pertaining to this case under the Colorado Open Records Act last week. Today, Mesa County Sheriff's Office denied nearly every one of those requests, simply stating the case remains open and active. Heather Benjamin, public information officer for the Sheriff's Office, said certain information can't be released, and other documents are sealed by a court order.

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A vigil has been planned for two-year-old William and four-year-old Tyler Jensen Friday, Dec. 7 at 6 p.m. at Riverbend Park. The boys' grandparents say all are welcome to come together in remembering the young boys' lives.

The boys' family learned Thursday they must pay a $5,000 fee in order to file an injunction in the battle for custody of the boys' bodies.

The news inspired some in the community to spend the afternoon going door-to-door to businesses dropping off jars for the "Tyler William Jensen Memorial Fund" and collecting donations for the family.

"This is a tight-knit community and we care about our kids," said volunteer Heather Aspy. "I couldn't imagine losing a son, let alone three in a row, and this family needs some closure."

In the wake of two little boys’ deaths, the family of William and Tyler Jensen say they are overwhelmed by the support they have seen from their Mesa County community.

From funds to funeral planning, help has come in a variety of ways, and the boys’ step-grandfather, Robert Mathena, says his tears of devastation have turned into tears of gratitude.

Mathena tells KKCO 11 News that the Palisade Funeral Home has offered to host William and Tyler’s funeral for free, and Colorado National Bank will donate candles for the vigil.

A fund has also been set up to help the family pay for Tyler Jensen’s medical expenses. You can donate to the “Tyler William Jensen Memorial Fund” at any U.S. Bank Branch, as well as additional locations. For addresses, see the map below.

On Nov. 27, four-year-old Tyler Jensen was rushed to the hospital around 6:30 p.m. That evening, he and his two-year-old brother, William, had been left by their mother in her red Toyota 4Runner for an unknown amount of time. The vehicle was on Powderhorn Drive, right off of Highway 65.

William was dead when emergency crews arrived, but Tyler was still hanging on. He was transported in a CareFlight helicopter to St. Mary’s Hospital.

That same night, he was transferred to Children’s Hospital in Denver, where doctors discovered he was suffering from severe liver and kidney damage, according to Mathena.

Tyler died the night of Monday, Dec. 3, after he was taken off of life support.

Though little information has been released by investigators, Mathena believes the boys’ mother, Heather, had left them in the running vehicle to meet up with a man.

On her Facebook page, which has since been deleted, Heather posted that her two sons were sickened by carbon monoxide poisoning. However, Mathena told KKCO 11 News that doctors ruled out carbon monoxide as a contributing factor in the deaths. The Mesa County Coroner’s Office has not released William or Tyler’s cause of death because the district attorney sealed all documents relating to this case.

When he was hospitalized, Tyler was placed in state custody. On Nov. 30, the boy’s uncle, Johnny Jensen, called for a custody meeting to ask that Tyler live with him, but the request was not granted.

Now, Robert and Diane Mathena are asking for custody of the boys’ bodies because they don’t agree with the way Heather wants to handle their burial.

"She wants to cremate [William] and sprinkle his ashes on top of our son's grave and call it good. We want to give him a Christian service burial, a decent burial and everything,” said Robert.

Eric Jensen, the boys’ father and the Mathena’s son, was killed on Oct. 10 in a car accident on a Garfield County road.

Wednesday, the Mathenas filed paperwork with the Mesa County courts to get custody of William’s and Tyler’s bodies, hoping to get an emergency hearing right after that.

Meanwhile, Heather Jensen has referred all media calls to her lawyer, Ed Nugent, who told KKCO 11 News, "It is improper for me to make any comments at this time and not advisable for her to make any statements, as no charges have been filed."

The Mesa County Sheriff's Office has only released the boys' names and the confirmation of Tyler’s death, stating "no arrests or arrest documents have been obtained, filed or executed" and that the case remains active and on-going.

Mathena says Heather’s actions surrounding the incident have been suspicious. According to Mathena, she cashed Eric's $50,000 life insurance check the day of the Powderhorn incident. According to her co-workers at Maverick Country Store in Clifton, Heather has stopped showing up to work the week before that.

Mathena believes Heather is trying to leave the state to go to Florida with her mother.

Neighbors say that three investigators and one deputy searched Heather's apartment in Palisade on Dec. 1 for nearly an hour and a half, and they left with three white bags filled with unknown items.

Her red Toyota 4Runner is impounded at the sheriff’s office.

Heather’s neighbor Crystal Allen says this is not the first hint of child neglect in the Jensen family. She tells KKCO that she found William wandering by himself in the middle of their street a couple weeks ago.

"Heather was, like, mad at me when I returned him to her,” said Allen. "I would not not know where my two year old is at any time."


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