Mother’s Testimony Continues in Case Alleging Sex Abuse Cover-up
By Kelsie LeRose
February 1, 2018
Testimony continued Wednesday from Sandra Lee Jensen during the civil case alleging members of the Mormon Church covered up sexual abuse by the son of church leaders.
Sandra Lee Jensen first took the stand Tuesday as a witness for the plaintiffs. She is the mother of Christopher Michael Jensen – who is serving 35 to 75 years in prison for sexually abusing two minors at the ages of 4 and 3.
The lawsuit against the Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; Corporation of the Presiding Bishop of the Church of Jesus Chris of Latter-day Saints; Sandra Lee and Chris Jensen; Don Fishel and Steven Grow, who have held lay church clergy positions; and one unnamed defendant was filed in 2013 by six families.
The suit accused the church and its leaders of actively covering up the abuse and assisting Michael Jensen in committing further acts by enabling him to babysit for and live with other church families with young children.
Carl Kravitz, an attorney for the plaintiffs, began questioning Wednesday by referencing a family’s complaint of Michael Jensen’s treatment of their then 4-year-old son.
The victim’s mother had called Sandra Lee Jensen to her house in reference to the allegations, Kravitz said. However, she testified she believed she was going over to help with Relief Society President duties.
Those duties include assisting in the needs of the members within the local congregation and communities.
During the meeting, Kravitz said, the victim’s mother used the word sex offender and Michael Jensen in the same sentence. Kravitz asked Sandra Lee Jensen if she questioned why she said that.
“I did not,” she replied. She continued by saying she wanted to get an explanation from her son.
Sandra Lee testified that Michael Jensen told her the victim had walked in on him while he was using the bathroom, but he went about his business.
Kravitz then asked Sandra Lee whether the victim had approached her about what Michael had allegedly done. She testified that he came to her room and told her he was hungry. The victim testified he told her what Michael had done to him.
Sandra Lee said she later found out at his criminal trial, that Michael had lied to her about the incident. He was convicted in February 2013 of one count of first-degree sexual assault and two counts of sexual abuse by a custodian.
Michael Jensen testified during his criminal trial that maybe the child had seen him watching porn. Sandra Lee Jensen testified Wednesday that there was never any porn in their home, and they had no movies rated above PG-13. She also said all computers were in common areas of the home.
During cross-examination, the Jensen’s attorney asked Sandra Lee whether she believed Michael’s story about the bathroom incident. She replied, “yes.”
He then asked if Michael Jensen had lied to her, to which she responded in tears–“yes.”
Sandra Lee Jensen also testified that she did not feel that the victim’s mother showed hostility toward her during interactions following their conversation.
Sandra Lee Jensen was asked, if in hindsight, she should have gone back and spoke to victim’s mother again. After taking a minute to calm down, she said, “I should have.”
The jury was shown an exhibit that contained emails from Sandra Lee and their former Bishop Matt Whitcomb in 2009.
Sandra Lee Jensen testified she was asking Whitcomb, as a friend, for suggestions of how to help their son. The email also said the Jensen’s were really done with Michael and the choices he was making, and they could not risk their other children.
Kravitz questioned what she meant by “could not risk their other children.” Sandra Lee Jensen said she did not want things like his bad attitude to rub off on the other children.
She continued that Whitcomb knew the struggles they were having as parents and the emails were “not necessarily” in reference to the Utah charges.
Michael Jensen was initially accused of sexually abusing young children in 2004 when he was 13-years-old. Living in Provo, Utah at the time, Jensen was arrested at his middle school and charged with two felony counts of sexual abuse for pinning two 12- and 13-year-old females against a wall and fondling them inappropriately and without consent.
A plea agreement was reached in the case, which resulted in the charges being reduced to two misdemeanor counts of lewdness.
Jensen allegedly assaulted a family member in 2010, after which his father kicked him out of the house. He was 18 at the time.
Sandra Lee testified that she was not home at the time, but supported her husband’s decision.
Michael Jensen originally stayed in a tent in the family’s backyard and was only allowed in the home to shower in the morning when only his dad was home and could use the restroom with his dad’s supervision, Sandra Lee Jensen testified.
Sandra Lee Jensen also testified that the incident was not the only reason they had kicked him out. She said it was the “accumulation” of his behavior and a “line was crossed.”
While not able to live in the family’s home, Michael Jensen stayed in the church for a couple of days and with other church families.
One family he stayed with, who also is involved in the lawsuit, took him on vacation with them to the beach. Sandra Lee testified that she discouraged Michael Jensen from going on the trip due to his pending church mission. She said she was also concerned because there would be women in bathing suits.
Michael went with his friend and their family anyway, and allegedly sexually abused the family’s 12-year-old daughter.
According to the lawsuit, Michael Jensen continued to hold esteem within the church, and was sent on a church mission in June 2011. The parents of two victims reported Jensen to the West Virginia State Police during this mission.
Sandra Lee testified that she did receive two phone calls from the police, however, she does not remember the police sharing details about their investigation. She said she was surprised that Cpl. Ryan Eshbaugh, who was the investigating officer in the criminal trial, did provide details of why he was being sought.
“I don’t remember those details,” Sandra Lee Jensen said.
In 2007, Jensen was accused of fondling a 14-year-old girl outside of a movie theater in Martinsburg. According to court records, Jensen’s mother allegedly knew about the theater incident and asked the girl if she was OK and if there was “a problem.” No criminal charges were filed.
During cross-examination, Sandra Lee Jensen maintained that she did not have a reason to believe that Michael Jensen was a danger to young children, prior to the criminal proceedings, because she believed the Utah and movie theater incidents were between consensual teenagers.
She was asked if she was concerned about young children, if she would let Michael babysit. She replied, “No, I would not.”