DCF draws criticism from source close to family in Lehigh murder-suicide
LEHIGH ACRES, Fla. It was a “very dark, very dreary” place.
That’s how a source close to those involved in a murder-suicide last month described the Fourth Street Southwest home where Fort Myers High School student Heidi Shinn lived. Shinn, 18, was killed two weeks ago in the murder-suicide that took place there.
“The few windows that were there were always closed,” the source said. “There were very, very few lights.”
The Lee County Sheriff’s Office was called to the home 58 times in the three years leading up to the shooting for complaints like shots fired and disturbances. Jonathan Jensen, whom the sheriff’s office identified as the trigger man in the fatal shooting, made a habit of stepping outside the home and randomly firing his gun, neighbors said.
The Florida Department of Children and Families was also called numerous times over the past decade, the source said, but it’s unclear if they ever responded.
The source believes the DCF didn’t do enough to try to prevent Shinn’s death.
“They failed Heidi, and they should’ve done a lot more,” the source said.
The DCF would only say they’ve opened a child protective investigation and declined further comment, saying any information regarding prior involvement with the family is confidential.
Shinn lived in the home for about four years with Jensen and his wife, Tiffany Jensen, the source said. All three died in the murder-suicide.
The Jensens weren’t foster parents to Shinn — they were non-relative caregivers, the Children’s Network of Southwest Florida said.
Neighbors knew of other children who had lived at the home, and the source close to the family said they were all home at the time of the shooting.
School official laments systemic roadblocks
Lee County school board member Pam Lariviere wants to prevent what happened to Shinn from happening to anyone else.
“Here’s our problem: DCF does get called, but after that, basically the school system’s hands are tied,” she said at a school board meeting Tuesday.
Shinn was in elementary school when Lariviere met her. Lariviere was aware of some of her dark background, but said Heidi always had a smile on her face.
Teachers at Fort Myers High School knew about Shinn’s background, too, according to Lariviere, who said it’s her understanding the DCF was alerted to some of what was going on by teachers who called them.
Lawmakers could hold the key to a solution, Lariviere believes. She supports placing social workers in every school to work alongside the DCF.
“I have a dream for a pilot program that our state legislature would maybe try,” she said. “There’s so much that goes on in these kids’ lives.”