Woman who let sons die in overheated SUV gets 10 years in prison; family, friends urged leniency

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - A Colorado woman was sentenced to 10 years in prison Friday for the deaths of her two young sons who overheated when they were left alone in an SUV with the motor running and the heater on.

Heather Jensen, 25, was smoking marijuana and having sex with a man in a nearby truck in November 2012 when her sons, 2-year-old William Haze Jensen and 4-year-old Tyler Brandon Jensen, died after about 65 minutes in her running Toyota 4Runner, according to court records.

Several family members and friends urged the judge to grant leniency. One said a long sentence would compound the mother's grief, the  Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reported.

The judge, however, said Jensen had a duty to protect her children.

"One of the things we as parents are required to do is to put our children before ourselves, and if we don't, bad things can happen," Robison said before passing sentence, according to the Daily Sentinel. "It's up to us as parents and community members to protect them. They deserve it. They require it.”

Robison could have sentenced Jensen to anywhere from 4 to 16 years in prison, the newspaper reported. Robison also ordered Jensen to serve five years of parole after her release from prison.

Jensen was convicted Jan. 31 on two counts of fatal child abuse. She was acquitted on two counts of criminally negligent homicide.

Her attorneys have said they'll appeal the conviction.

Prosecutors had asked the judge to consider allegations that Jensen failed drug tests while she was on probation for a previous case -- a domestic violence incident with her late husband.

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