MINOT, N.D. – A North Dakota woman is charged with murder in the death of her 13-year-old son, who weighed 21 pounds when he died in January of starvation, court records say.
Jessica Lee Jensen, 35, of Kenmare, N.D., made her first court appearance Monday in North Central Judicial District Court.
State Forensic Medical Examiner William Massello III concluded that Jensen’s son died from chronic starvation due to untreated juvenile appetite disorder and listed the manner of death as homicide.
The Ward County Sheriff’s Office arrested Jensen late last week after the results of the investigation led prosecutors to file charges.
The son is not identified in court records, but an obituary identifies him as Aidan Edward Bossingham.
“Due to the age of the child, it’s extremely tragic,” said Capt. Bob Barnard of the Ward County Sheriff’s Office.
Jensen, who has two other children, ages 14 and 7, also is charged with abuse or neglect of a child, a Class C felony. Court records say Jensen failed to provide proper education for the children and a bedroom in their home, which is about 50 miles northwest of Minot, was littered with garbage and smelled of feces.
The other children are now staying with relatives, Barnard said.
Court records say:
Jensen called 911 at 8:17 p.m. Jan. 12 to report that her son had “passed on.”
A Kenmare police officer who responded said Jensen was sitting on a couch in the living room, holding a small child in her arms. The officer was unable to locate a pulse and attempted to open the child’s mouth to administer breaths, but could not due to the onset of rigor mortis.
The child was taken by ambulance to Kenmare Community Hospital, where a nurse practitioner said he appeared to have been dead for some time. She reported the boy appeared to be 2 or 3 years old.
Jensen told investigators her son had a hormonal growth problem and his pituitary gland did not function properly. She said her son had always been sick, and for the past year would make himself vomit and hoard food.
On the day of his death, Jensen said her son ate oatmeal for breakfast and later had a Sprite and yogurt. She said about 6:30 or 7 p.m. she made him some homemade “Pedialyte” and he consumed about 4 ounces.
According to a court affidavit, the boy had not seen a doctor since 2008. During his early years, he was seen several times at Kenmare Community Hospital for a persistent cough. He was referred to a pediatrician at Trinity Health in Minot in 2006, weighing 29 pounds at the time.
The boy was then referred to Sanford Health in Fargo, where he was diagnosed with a human growth hormone deficiency and seen at that facility periodically through November 2008. Records obtained by investigators show Jensen stopped hormone treatments against medical advice and then resumed treatments when he returned to Sanford for followup care. A January 2008 chart note indicates “very poor growth because of lack of treatment.”
Jensen told investigators she has been home-schooling the children for several years and they do not have a regular doctor because she believes she can “solve the problems,” court records say. She said she is separated from her husband, Charles Jensen.
Charles Jensen told investigators he had moved out in July or August of 2013 and has no say in the children’s care. The boy’s father is no longer living, but Charles Jensen told investigators he raised the boy as his own child.
Autopsy results showed that the child’s body weighed 21 pounds and his stomach was empty. Dr. Massello noted there was no injury to the throat that would indicate recent or regular vomiting. Massello said the conditions he identified were medically treatable, according to the court affidavit.
Investigators who searched Jensen’s home found it to be dirty and cluttered, with an upstairs bedroom littered with garbage and smelling of feces.
The two oldest children had not attended school since May 2009. The home had one shelf that contained educational materials, primarily elementary level workbooks. The youngest child could not spell her name to an interviewer and was not sure of her age.
Family members interviewed by investigators said Jensen treated her son differently than her other two children, and two relatives said they weren’t able to see the children after they confronted Jensen about her son’s medical condition.
Jensen’s application for a court-appointed attorney has been approved, but she did not have a lawyer appointed as of Monday. Bond was set at $250,000 cash. Her next court appearance is scheduled for May 1.