405-778-4800
Criminal Attorney Oklahoma Defense Lawyer Adam R. Banner OKLAHOMA CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY AT LAW
This Attorney is Lead Counsel Rated. Click here for more Information.

Criminally Negligent or Criminally Stupid? Mother Charged in Childrens' Deaths

03-Feb-2014

Last week, the trial began for Heather Jensen, a Colorado mother who was charged with criminally negligent homicide, child abuse resulting in death, and false reporting in the deaths of her two sons, 2-year-old William and 4-year-old Tyler.

William and Tyler were strapped and locked in their mother's SUV with the heater running as she left them for approximately an hour and a half as she had sex with a man in a nearby vehicle. The running heater caused temperatures inside the vehicle to reach as high as 140 degrees, causing the children to die of hyperthermia. William died that night; his older brother died of his injuries a week later.

Prosecutors paint a picture of Jensen as a selfish woman and a negligent parent who created the situation that caused her children's deaths. They say that at one point, 4-year-old Tyler opened the doors to the vehicle, but instead of addressing the needs of her children, she handed the older boy her cell phone to keep him occupied and then activated the child locks on the door so that her children could not get out and interrupt her and her male companion.

Jensen's defense attorney tells a different tale. In his opening statement, he calls the children's death a tragic accident, not a crime. He points to Jensen having an IQ of 76, only a few points above the designation for mental retardation. Furthermore, he says, she was a young mother reeling from the loss of her husband only two months prior. He says that, in running the heater in the vehicle, Jensen believed that she was keeping her children safe and warm in the cold November night.

Although the boys died in November, the district attorney did not file charges right away. Instead, he filed charges more than a month later. He explained that the boys' deaths were indeed accidental, and that there is no evidence of premeditation. However, he notes that criminal negligence includes accidents, and that leaving young children unattended in a locked vehicle for a prolonged period of time is certainly negligent.

Jensen's trial is expected to conclude later this week.

In Oklahoma, "negligent homicide" is a crime that is defined under the motor vehicle code and includes DUI manslaughter. Rather than being prosecuted as negligent homicide, a case like this would likely be prosecuted as manslaughter.

Manslaughter is classified as either first degree manslaughter or second degree manslaughter:

Homicide is manslaughter in the first degree in the following cases: 

  1. When perpetrated without a design to effect death by a person while engaged in the commission of a misdemeanor. 
  2. When perpetrated without a design to effect death, and in a heat of passion, but in a cruel and unusual manner, or by means of a dangerous weapon; unless it is committed under such circumstances as constitute excusable or justifiable homicide. 
  3. When perpetrated unnecessarily either while resisting an attempt by the person killed to commit a crime, or after such attempt shall have failed. (21 O.S. 711)

Every killing of one human being by the act, procurement or culpable negligence of another, which, under the provisions of this chapter, is not murder, nor manslaughter in the first degree, nor excusable nor justifiable homicide, is manslaughter in the second degree. (21 O.S. 716)

No doubt, the true victims in this case are the two little boys left trapped and alone while their mother smoked pot and had sex nearby. However, evidence seems to indicate that the mother did not mean to harm her children. She is selfish and ignorant--even criminally so--but that does not make her the malicious murderer of her own children.



All News

More News

Teen Who Urged Boyfriend to Commit Suicide Convicted of Manslaughter
19-Jun-2017

In July 2014, 18-year-old Conrad Roy III attempted to take his own..

Supreme Court to Decide Whether Warrantless Cell Phone Location Search Violates Fourth Amendment
12-Jun-2017

The United States Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case that cou..

Man Sentenced to 4 Years in Stabbing Death of Roommate
09-Jun-2017

A 72-year-old man is ordered to spend four years in prison after s..

Trial Delayed for Second Brother in Broken Arrow Quintuple Murder
29-May-2017

Shortly before midnight on July 22, 2015, police in Broken Arrow r..

Criminal Appeals Court Upholds Death Sentence for Triple-Murderer
26-May-2017

For the second time, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals has af..

Poorly written bill leaves lawsuit loophole; Governor signs anyway
22-May-2017

When drafting legislation, it is imperative that language is clear..

Not Guilty Verdict in Tulsa Police Shooting; Officer's Job Status under Evaluation
19-May-2017

After nine hours of deliberation, a jury returned a verdict o..

Man Exonerated in Rape Case Awarded Compensation
15-May-2017

An Oklahoma man who was exonerated of rape after spending 13 years..

Trial Begins in Tulsa Police Shooting Case
08-May-2017

Jury selection begins today in the manslaughter case of Tulsa poli..

Oklahoma Death Penalty Remains on Hiatus
05-May-2017

It has been almost exactly three years since the botched execution..

×