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Police report details events leading to Jamestown murder-suicide

Cherish Petersen and Casey Jensen

JAMESTOWN, N.D. — On Sunday, Aug. 6, police here were called to a house where the bodies of a woman and a man were found in the basement, the apparent victims of a double shooting.

A 3-month-old baby was found lethargic but alive in a swinging chair in the upstairs living room of the house.

It was later determined the deaths of Cherish Petersen, 26, and Casey Jensen, 33, were the result of a murder-suicide, the incident having apparently started two nights before, on Friday, Aug. 4, when friends and family of Petersen, the murder victim, last heard from her.

Many times with such crimes the public is left to wonder: Why?

In this case, some answers may be gleaned from detailed investigative reports Forum News Service obtained from the Jamestown Police Department, which interviewed people close to the couple.

Based on those reports, a picture emerges of the couple's relationship and factors that may have played a part in that tragic Friday in August.

Growing tension

At the time of the shootings, the couple were living in a house they recently bought. That purchase, along with other expenses, had placed a strain on the relationship, according to those who knew the pair.

Also, Petersen had confided to her sister that she had feelings for a male friend, a connection that may have fed suspicions Jensen shared with others regarding the paternity of the 3-month-old child he shared with Petersen.

However, the male friend told police that while he and Petersen were intimate last summer, the sexual relationship began after the birth of Petersen's child. He offered to have testing done to prove he was not the father of the child.

People who knew Petersen and Jensen told police Petersen never talked of Jensen physically abusing her, but Petersen's male friend said Jensen was controlling.

Based on what friends and family told police, Petersen and Jensen's nearly three-year relationship was on-again, off-again — with Petersen leaving and returning at least three times.

Petersen and Jensen were a couple the night of Aug. 4, when Petersen and her sister had a sisters' night out in Jamestown, first having dinner at a restaurant and later drinks at a hotel lounge.

Petersen's sister would later tell police Petersen indicated she planned to end her relationship with Jensen and that she wanted her sister there when it happened.

They planned to do that together two nights later, on Sunday, Aug. 6.

The sister told police Petersen was reluctant to go home that Friday night because she did not want Jensen "in her face."

The sister told police that after Petersen left for home, she received a text from Petersen about 9:45 p.m. asking if she could call her.

The sister responded to the text 10 minutes later, but she never received a call from Petersen. The sister told police she assumed Petersen and Jensen were arguing.

Petersen's sister also told police Jensen would sometimes talk to her about his relationship with Petersen, particularly during times when Petersen had stepped away from the relationship.

Petersen's sister told police Jensen would ask questions like: "What did I do wrong? Do I have to buy her this? Do I have to do this?"

'I can't handle it'

According to the Jamestown police reports on the shootings, a woman who was friends with both Petersen and Jensen told investigators that Jensen had dinner with her the night of Aug. 4.

She said Jensen told her he hadn't eaten anything for about four days and that he appeared sad. But she also said he didn't seem particularly different than he had been for months.

She told police she had long counseled Jensen to break up with Petersen because she didn't believe Petersen was right for him. She said Jensen would respond by telling her it would look bad if he couldn't make the relationship work and he was concerned he would never find another girlfriend.

Jensen's female friend told police he left her home about 8:30 p.m. and she and Jensen exchanged text messages until about 9:30 p.m. She said his messages included wording to the effect he was not a good guy and "it's all his fault."

Police found a text from Jensen to his female friend sent at 9:21 p.m. on Aug. 4, in which he said: "I can't handle it."

The female friend responded: "Then put a stop to her doing this to you."

When police asked the woman what she meant by that, she told them she meant she wanted Jensen to get Petersen out of the house.

Petersen's male friend who told police he began a sexual relationship with her last summer also told investigators he was with Petersen around 9 p.m. on Aug. 4 for about 20 minutes.

He said after Petersen left, she called him about 9:35 p.m. and told him she was in the front yard of her house and she and Jensen were fighting.

He said he told Petersen to go back inside and calm things down. The last text message he received from Petersen read: "I'll save my energy for you."

The male friend told police he tried contacting Petersen on Saturday, Aug. 5, and Sunday, Aug. 6, but he did not get a response.

He said that was odd because Petersen always responded to his messages.

He also told police that while Petersen had never indicated to him that Jensen had been violent with her, she did say Jensen had a hot temper and that one reason she returned to Jensen after trying to leave him was because he had threatened to keep their child from her.

The bodies of Petersen and Jensen were found in their home the night of Aug. 6 by Petersen's father, who had been asked by Jensen's father to check on the couple after Jensen's father became concerned that something had happened.

Police found a cellphone near Petersen's body. The phone's screen had become detached, and the screen was found about 2 feet from the phone.

Jensen's body was found near Petersen's, and a long gun was lying on top of his body, according to the police reports.

A forensic examiner determined Petersen was shot first, the victim of murder, and that Jensen died by suicide.

Breaking point

Melanie Fierstine, prevention education director at the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center of Fargo-Moorhead, said she has no direct information regarding the Jamestown case.

However, she said when acts of extreme violence occur in a relationship, more often than not there has been an ongoing pattern of abuse — physical or emotional — that may not be apparent to others.

"We have a society that puts a high value on successful relationships, and they (victims) may feel helpless, or feel a sense of shame," Fierstine said.

She added that anyone who feels they are in danger should not hesitate to reach out to someone for help and those who hear that call should not hesitate to offer whatever assistance they can.

"If you notice a person seems really unhappy, or perhaps their partner is being unkind, it's OK to ask somebody, 'How are you doing? I'm concerned about you,'" Fierstine said.

"And then when they do share, it is so important to listen, believe them, take it seriously," she added.

Fierstine said anyone in need of help is encouraged to call the crisis center at (701) 293-7273.

Dave Olson
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