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King County Journal (Bellevue, WA)
July 31, 2003
Author: Noel S. Brady, Journal Reporter
BELLEVUE — Police here are well acquainted with the retired King County sheriff’s deputy who was charged Tuesday with trying to hire a hit man to kill his family in Bellevue.
Bellevue officers arrested William F. Jensen at least three times in the past year alone, said Bellevue police spokeswoman Marcia Harnden.
In fact, Harnden said, Jensen’s alleged domestic-violence-related offenses were so frequent that officers had limited time to pursue other investigations involving Jensen, such as for car theft and a prostitution ring.
“We know he has multiple firearms,” Harnden said, noting that police used caution whenever they had to arrest Jensen, who lived in Bellevue’s Newport Hills neighborhood before moving to Newcastle. “He’s been a problem for a couple years.”
Just before Jensen, 46, was jailed in May on charges of felony harassment from a domestic violence incident, court papers state, he allegedly told his wife, Susan Jensen, “If I go to jail, you’re going to your grave.”
Prosecutors say Jensen tried to honor the promise.
“He has a long history of threatening me, our children, our neighbors and others,” Sue Jensen said of her husband in court documents two years ago, when she obtained a yearlong protection order from him. “I am in fear for my safety and my children’s safety. Contrary to Bill’s statements, he has harmed our children.”
A few months later, Sue Jensen even came to the King County Journal, hoping to tell her story before it was too late. She said her husband was spiraling out control with anger, pain medication and gambling addiction. She said she was afraid she would end up dead.
A month before she filed her statement in court, Sue Jensen watched as her husband’s rage escalated to new levels. It was June 22, 2001, and Bill Jensen was holed up for more than an hour inside his family’s Newport Hill home, defying orders from police that he come out of the house.
Bellevue police were trying to serve a previous temporary protection order, and in doing so they needed to seize the man’s firearms. But he wasn’t being cooperative, Harnden said.
Jensen used his handcuffs to chain the front door shut, and warned police outside that he was a black belt in karate. When negotiators finally convinced Jensen to come out, he refused to open his 500-pound gun safe. Police hauled the safe away, and it sat in an evidence warehouse for two years before it was opened by a locksmith.
Inside, Harnden said, were numerous handguns and long rifles and hundreds of rounds of ammunition. But police never recovered Jensen’s service weapon.
One of the targets of Jensen’s alleged murder contract — Sue Jensen’s sister, Linda Kay Harms — witnessed the standoff. In court-filed statements, she said the incident was a continuation of Jensen’s escalating aggressiveness.
“Bill becomes vindictive, angry, and wants to retaliate in a big way if he does not like what’s occurring,” she said in July 2001. “A primary example was last year when (his daughter) developed an interest for an Interlake High School student. Bill said he could hire a hit man.
“I fear for the safety of my sister, Sue Jensen, especially after the last major confrontation,” Harms said.
Inside the King County Jail last week, an inmate called Seattle police to say Bill Jensen had offered to pay him $150,000 to kill his wife, daughter and sister-in-law.
Prosecutors say Jensen even made a down payment of $1,000 to the informant. And he instructed the informant to get someone else to be a middle-man in the planning stage, so the cops couldn’t connect the hit man to Jensen after the murders.
Seattle detectives sent in an undercover police officer posing as the informant’s girlfriend to visit Jensen. In a jail interview booth Saturday afternoon, police recorded a 40-minute planning session. Jensen suggested killing his wife, sister-in-law and 18-year-old daughter at the family home on Monday. It had to be by the first of August, he said, because his felony harassment trial was about to begin.
And if his 14-year-old son got in the way, Jensen replied, “Oh well.”
Sue Jensen’s attorney, John Compatore, said family members have been so traumatized by the revelations that they have secluded themselves with other friends and loved ones and will not be speaking to the press. “The children were only informed of (the murder allegations) last evening,” Compatore said Wednesday in a press release, “and one can only imagine the devastating effect that this information has had on them.”
Compatore said the bizarre Bellevue case is attracting inquiries from Diane Sawyer, Maury Povich and other national media.
King County Sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Kevin Fagerstrom said Jensen was hired onto the then-named King County Police Department in the fall of 1979 and worked until September 1999. He spent most of his career patrolling the Eastside, but his last years were spent on court security at Northeast District Court in Redmond and Issaquah.
Jensen spent his final 18 months as a deputy on medical leave, trying to recover from a variety of illnesses including chronic pain from a pinched sciatic nerve from a herniated disc, a broken right foot, and chronic Lyphocytic Leukemia. Court records indicate he was regularly taking 40 milligrams twice a day of the powerful painkiller Oxycontin, as well as daily doses of Prozac, Wellbutrin and Buspar.
“We have not located any documented incidents of domestic violence complaints (against Jensen) filed with us,” Fagerstrom said. “We have found no evidence of assaultive behavior or criminal conduct when he was deputy.”
Jensen was written up twice for procedural violations, but Fagerstrom wouldn’t be specific about the violations.
Court records indicate Jensen’s first domestic-violence related charge came in 1996. But at that time the fourth-degree assault charge didn’t require he lose his right to carry a weapon, so he was not removed from his job as an officer. The state Legislature changed the law in the early 1990s to include fourth-degree assault domestic violence as a crime under which the Second Amendment right to bear arms is revoked.
Jensen recently was under investigation by the Eastside Narcotics Task Force for allegedly running a prostitution ring, Harnden said. But the task force, which investigates vice, had difficulty pursuing the case because Jensen was often out of reach, either on vacation to Las Vegas or the Bahamas, or in jail.
He also was being investigated for stealing his wife’s car, Harnden said.
The Bellevue Police Department has kept a close eye on Jensen for the last few years, Harnden said, especially after his wife filed for a divorce in 2001 when Jensen began violating protection orders.
Police did Jensen no favors, Harnden said; in fact, they were concerned about his access to firearms and his knowledge of the legal system.
“We do everything we can under the domestic violence laws of this state,” she said. “You have to remember, he knows the system and how to manipulate it.
“Every time we had probably cause, we made an arrest.”
Noel Brady can be reached at email@example.com or 425-453-4252.
Record Number: 138986
Copyright, 2003, King County Journal, Bellevue, WA