Cottonwood Heights man charged with abusing and killing girlfriend's daughter

|Courtesy of Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office Jake Don Jensen

A Cottonwood Heights man has been charged with abusing and killing his then-girlfriend’s daughter in early 2016.

The child, identified in court documents as S.M., was 1½ years old at the time of her death, which doctors believed was caused by abuse at the hands of 29-year-old Jake Don Jensen, according to charging documents.

A bone in each of the girl’s legs appeared to have been broken and healing, charges state, and she also had injuries on her head and eyes. She was born prematurely, charges say, leading to intraventricular hemorrhaging and cerebral palsy, which caused developmental delays and weakness in her left side.

Jensen, who was not the girl’s father, cared for her while her mother worked at night, charges state, and in the early morning hours of Jan. 2, 2016, the girl reportedly had a seizure.

The girl screamed and was grabbing her ear, Jensen allegedly told police, and when he picked her up, she clenched her hands and jaw and her eyes rolled back with her eyelids fluttering.

The girl’s mother called police, but the the girl’s vital signs appeared to be normal when emergency responders arrived, according to charges. The mother declined a medical transport for the girl and promised to take the girl to the doctor, but she did not do so, charges say.

On Jan. 4, 2016, the mother said the baby appeared to be back to her ”normal self,” charges say, and she again left her child in Jensen’s care while she was at work.

The baby had been sleeping, but when she woke up, Jensen went to get her a bottle, he told police. He gave conflicting statements to police about what happened next, according to charges.

In one statement, he told police that he gave the girl a bottle and her legs and arms went stiff while she made a gurgling sound. In another statement, Jensen said he found the baby unresponsive, apparently having a seizure.

The girl’s mother told police she ”had a feeling she should come home early” and arrived as the baby was still having the seizure. The mother said this seizure was different from the one she’d had days earlier.

The couple called police in the early hours of Jan. 5, 2016, and the baby was taken to the emergency room at Primary Children’s Hospital. The girl never regained consciousness, charges state. Medical personnel withdrew life support when it was ”clear there was no brain activity” and the girl died five minutes later.

Doctors said the girl’s injuries were “most consistent with severe child physical abuse.” They pointed out that the girl‘s caretakers had not given adequate explanations for her injuries, charges say.

The girl had suffered a ”very severe anoxic/hypoxic injury to her brain” and hemorrhages around her optic nerves in both eyes, which appeared to have been possibly healing for ”a few days,” charges state.

An medical examiner determined that the girl died of seizures triggered by subdural hemorrhages likely sustained two to three days before her death, and that her manner of death was homicide.

Jensen is charged in 3rd District Court with one count of child abuse homicide, a first-degree felony, for injuries the girl incurred in January 2016, and one count of child abuse, a second-degree felony, for alleged instances in November 2015.

A warrant has been issued for Jensen, but he did not appear on the Salt Lake County jail’s inmate roster Monday night. His bail was to be set at $500,000.

The girl’s mother had not been charged in the death as of Monday. The mother and Jensen were married sometime after the girl died, charges state.

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