Most Wanted: A rich, upwardly mobile individual like Robert made an unlikely addition to the FBI’s Most Wanted list. In his case, it was well warranted.
One Equals Three: Twenty-nine years on from a savage rape-slaying, DNA leads police to a suspect. But there’s more to tell…much more.
House of Pain: A woman with medical problems falls into the hands of an exceptionally cruel couple. What happens next is beyond depraved.
Sweating Bullets: Kevin and Ashley had been high school sweethearts, now reunited and talking marriage. But something’s changed. Kevin is different.
The Acid Truth: Lisa was an intelligent, resilient woman with one glaring flaw… her taste in men. None of her poor choices was as bad as Lawrence, though.
Cold Serial: Meet Roy Melanson, an exceptionally dangerous man. Beautiful women tend to end up dead when Roy’s in the vicinity. That’s no coincidence.
A Hundred Little Things: The medical examiner ruled it a murder-suicide. Not everyone was happy with that assessment. Time and evidence will tell.
Cold Cases: Solved! Volume 8
The path of true love never runs smoothly. That’s what they say and in the case of Charlie and Linda Jensen, the truism certainly seemed to apply. Charlie and Linda had been childhood sweethearts. They’d married straight out of high school in 1971 and welcomed their first child into the world just two years later. So far, so perfect. But marital bliss would be in short supply after those happy first years. Charlie had a liking for the bottle. He and Linda clashed frequently over his drinking and in 1978 she walked out on him and filed for divorce.
Thus began a disruptive decade for Linda. By 1982, she was in a new relationship, with a man named Robert Beard. They married and had a son together but split when he was still a baby. Four years later, and Linda was walking down the aisle with husband number three, a teacher named John Silliman. Shortly after, the couple moved to California, where Silliman legally adopted Linda’s son, Joey. Was this the happily ever after Linda had hoped for? Not quite. Her new husband was abusive and controlling. The marriage went the way of the previous two, ending in the divorce courts in 1990. Thereafter, Linda moved back to Minnesota.
And it is here that our story comes full circle. Back in her hometown of Big Lake, Linda reconnected with Charlie, who’d gotten his life together during the intervening years and given up the booze. The pair started dating again and quickly realized that they’d never stopped loving each other. They announced their engagement that same year and tied the knot on April 4, 1991. By then, Linda was heavily pregnant with their daughter, Lisa. ‘Love will find a way,’ is another truism, straight from a Hallmark card. In this case, it had.
Then came the morning of February 24, 1992. Charlie left for work at 6:15 that morning, his usual time. Joey departed for school at 7:45, leaving Linda home alone with the baby. Charlie usually made a call to his wife around mid-morning. He did so this day but got no reply. There was also no answer when he tried again at noon and three times during the afternoon. By now somewhat concerned, Charlie asked his boss if he could clock out early to check on his wife. He arrived home at 4:05 p.m. and walked in on a scene of domestic normality. Joey was home from school and doing his homework. Lisa was in her playpen, in obvious need of a diaper change but otherwise okay. There was no sign of Linda. Joey said he hadn’t seen her and assumed that she was in her room.
Charlie walked towards the master bedroom with an odd sense of foreboding gnawing at his gut. The door was closed. Ignoring the instinct to call out his wife’s name, he placed a hand on the handle, twisted it, pushed the door inward. Charlie took a half step inside, then stopped in his tracks. In the next moment, he was running back down the hall, yanking the phone from its cradle, punching in 911. “My wife is dead!” he yelled at the dispatcher. “I just got home, and I checked in the bedroom, and she’s been stabbed. I got the two kids here. Oh my god, what’s happened?”
Officers were soon racing towards the scene. They arrived to find 39-year-old Linda Jensen dead on the floor of her bedroom. Linda was naked and wrapped in a comforter. The killer had stabbed her right through the fabric, inflicting multiple wounds. He’d left the murder weapon, a steak knife from Linda’s own kitchen, embedded in her chest, pinning the comforter to her corpse. The autopsy would reveal that Linda had engaged in sexual activity shortly before her death. Semen was retrieved from the body.
With no sign of forced entry into the home, the obvious suspect was Charlie Jensen. Was it possible that love had not been as sweet the second time around? Was it possible that old hurts had surfaced, and that Charlie had decided to relieve himself of an incumbrance? Charlie said no and the evidence backed him up. He had an alibi and the sperm retrieved from the body wasn’t his. He even volunteered to take a polygraph, which he passed. Whoever had killed Linda, it wasn’t her husband.
One day into the investigation and the police got what appeared to be a solid lead. A mail carrier reported that she’d been passing the Jensen residence on the day of the murder when she spotted an older model tan pickup pulling out of the drive, a “scruffy-looking” Caucasian male at the wheel. She judged him to be late 30s / early 40s and was able to provide a detailed description which a police sketch artist fashioned into an identikit. The police then got corroboration for this sighting. The Jensens’ neighbor, Deborah Jones, had also seen the truck in the neighborhood although she never got a look at the driver.
This promising lead, though, came to nothing. Whoever the man in the tan truck was, he was long gone. Investigators, in any case, had turned their attentions elsewhere, to Linda’s second husband, Robert Beard, the father of her son Joey. Beard hadn’t wanted much to do with the boy since the divorce but now appeared to have had a change of heart. Phone records showed that he’d called Linda several times in the weeks before her murder. Linda’s family said that he’d been demanding visitation rights and threatening to sue for full custody if Linda refused. Had things become confrontational between them? Had Linda been killed as a result?
Brought in for questioning, Beard did himself no favors by lying to the police. According to him, he had not spoken to his ex-wife in years. He changed his tune when confronted with the phone records but still denied harming Linda. “I don’t even have a car,” he told investigators. “What was I going to do? Walk there?” He had a point.
But Robert Beard wasn’t the only one of Linda’s ex-husbands to come under suspicion. John Silliman also attracted the attention of the authorities, when it was learned that he bore considerable animosity towards his ex. The source of his anger was the child support he still had to pay for Joey. Silliman was not the child’s biological father but had legally adopted him while married to Linda. That obligated him to continue paying, something that he was none too happy about. Officers flew out to California to question Silliman but found that he had a cast-iron alibi. He’d been teaching a class of 30 students at the time that his ex-wife was murdered. He could not have done it. By May 1992, just three months in, the case had gone ice cold.
And so it might have remained but for Sandra Rolling, Linda Jensen’s sister. Sandra refused to let the Sherburne County Sheriff’s Department forget about her sister. Over the next seven years, she kept pressure on the department, calling every week to ask for an update. Eventually, that persistence paid off and a new sheriff agreed to reopen the investigation. The first step was to test the DNA from the rape kit against the prime suspects, Linda’s former husbands. Both were tested, and both cleared. There was also no match when the profile was submitted to CODIS. The investigation had barely been reignited, and already it had hit a wall.
A year passed. Then, in 2000, a woman named Angela Hennen came forward to offer up a name that was familiar to investigators. Kent Jones was the husband of Deborah Jones, the witness who had reported seeing the tan pickup driving around the neighborhood at the time of Linda Jensen’s murder. The Jones family lived right across the street from the Jensens and were pillars of the community in Big Lake. Kent and Deborah and their four children were regular churchgoers. Kent was also a much-respected Boy Scout leader.
But Kent had a dark side. For starters, he was an adulterer, who had been carrying on behind his wife’s back for years. Angela Hennen was only the latest in a long line of mistresses. The Scout leader, it appeared, had a voracious sexual appetite. He also had a temper. Officers had frequently been called to the Jones residence to deal with domestic violence incidents and had once had to take Deborah to the ER with a stab wound. She claimed that she’d fallen on a knife that was protruding from an open dishwasher. The police didn’t believe her and suspected that she was covering for her husband.
How did any of this relate to Linda Jensen’s death? Well, according to Angela Hennen, Kent was touchy about the subject. She’d once mentioned it in conversation, and he’d totally flipped out, warning her never to speak of it again. That didn’t amount to evidence of wrongdoing, but it was certainly suspicious. The police had nothing to lose by bringing Kent Jones in for a conversation.
Approached by investigators, Jones seemed more than willing to cooperate, even if he insisted that he had little to add. “I didn’t know the woman,” he said before almost immediately contradicting himself, admitting that he often saw her jogging by his house and had spoken to her on several occasions. A detective then asked if he’d been sexually involved with Linda and Jones got defensive and refused to say any more. He was then asked to provide a DNA sample and refused. The sample was eventually obtained via a warrant. Tested against the rape kit, it returned a match. The semen lifted from Linda Jensen’s body was from her neighbor, Kent Jones, who was now arrested and charged with her murder.
Kent Jones went on trial in May 2001, entering a not guilty plea. The intervening months had given Jones plenty of time to work out his cover story. Previously, he had asserted that he’d barely known the dead woman. Now he claimed that they’d been lovers and had engaged in consensual sex on the morning she died. That was how his semen ended up inside her body. The killer must have entered the house after he left and stabbed Linda to death. The defense offered two possible suspects for the jury to consider. The first was the man in the tan pickup, who the police had never been able to track down. The second was a man named Richard Christy, who worked out at the same gym as Linda and apparently had a crush on her.
The problem for the defense was that neither of these suspects had left his DNA at the crime scene. Kent Jones had and there was no evidence that it had an innocent origin. Linda’s family was adamant that she had not been having an affair, that she was happy in her marriage, that she’d loved her husband.
The case presented by the prosecution was that Jones, a man of prodigious sexual appetite, had long lusted over his attractive neighbor, who he saw jogging by his house every day. On the morning of February 24, he decided to act on that lust. He entered the Jensen home shortly after Joey left for school. Picking up a steak knife in the kitchen, he walked through the house and ambushed Linda in the bedroom. There, he threatened her with the knife and forced himself on her. Then, having sated himself, he must have realized what he’d done. He’d be reported, arrested, disgraced in the community. The only way out was to eliminate the witness. For that reason, an innocent woman, a wife and mother, was brutally knifed to death.
Murder trials are not often noted for moments of levity but there was one in this trial. Taking the stand in his own defense, Jones exercised extremely poor taste by telling the court that Linda had fallen for him because he was so good in bed. Later, when his wife, Deborah, entered the witness box, she was asked to rate his skill between the covers. “Nothing special,” she responded, to chuckles from the benches. Meanwhile, at the defense table, Kent flushed red.
In the end, the jury found Kent Jones guilty of murder and the judge sentenced him to life in prison. In 2004, he won a retrial, but the result was the same and his life sentence was subsequently upheld on appeal. Jones is currently incarcerated at the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Bayport. He is eligible for parole in 2030. Linda Jensen’s family has vowed to contest every application he puts forward.