An extradition warrant for a Sandy man accused of kidnapping his own son is on hold while state officials try to negotiate a compromise that would bring the boy back to Utah for chemotherapy.
Gov. Mike Leavitt had asked Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne to sign the extradition warrant for Daren Jensen earlier this week. But Wednesday, Leavitt requested that Kempthorne's office "pause" so that Utah officials could engage in talks with Jensen, Kempthorne's legal counsel Michael Bogert confirmed Friday.
Salt Lake County prosecutors have charged Daren Jensen, 38, with one felony count of kidnapping for allegedly fleeing Utah with his 12-year-old son, Parker, to avoid placing the boy in state custody. He was arrested in Pocatello on Aug. 16 and is fighting extradition.
His wife, Barbara Jensen, 36, is also charged, but she and Parker have disappeared. Kidnapping is a first-degree felony, punishable by up to life in prison. The Jensens and the state disagree about whether Parker needs chemotherapy.
Leavitt has spent "considerable" time looking at the details of the Jensens' case and has asked Richard Anderson, director of the state's Division of Child and Family Services, to handle the case
personally, Leavitt spokeswoman Natalie Gochnour said.
"The governor's concern has been that the legal process not overshadow the human-services needs," Gochnour said. "We're just hopeful that we can find a resolution that can help Parker."
But whether Parker is in need of medical treatment is a matter of debate between his parents and the state, which sought custody after receiving a complaint from Primary Children's Medical Center.
Doctors say Parker has Ewing's sarcoma, a rare bone cancer, and recommend chemotherapy. The Jensens dispute the diagnosis and question the need for treatments. A letter from friends and other Jensen family members released Thursday said Parker's cancer has not metastasized the way doctors predicted and that he is "feeling fine."
Anderson met with Daren Jensen in Pocatello Thursday night and is talking with "everyone that could help" the situation, DCFS spokeswoman Carol Sisco said.
No one from the Jensen family was available for comment Friday evening. And calls to the Jensen's Salt Lake attorney, Blake Nakamura, were not returned.
Privacy law prevents hospital officials from speaking about the case, although a spokeswoman confirmed the initial complaint to DCFS and released some information to the press about Ewing's sarcoma.
DCFS and the Utah Attorney General's Office are also prohibited by law from speaking because the case involves a juvenile court proceeding. Juvenile Court Judge Robert Yeates has also imposed a gag order on everyone involved in the case. The state is now seeking to have that order rescinded, Attorney General Mark Shurtleff said.
"We feel like we have a duty to correct falsehoods," said Shurtleff.
Shurtleff did confirm that his office was participating in conversations with Anderson and Daren Jensen.
"We're trying to put something together that will end the hiding and the warrants and everything so that the boy can get treatment," Shurtleff said.
Any agresement between the Jensens and the state would still have to meet the approval of the juvenile courts, he added.
Deputy District Attorney Kent Morgan said the county is not party to any communications between Leavitt and Kempthorne's office but would "welcome" the Jensens' voluntary return to Utah.
The governor's concern has been that the legal process not overshadow the human-services needs. We're just hopeful that we can find a resolution that can help Parker.
aide to Gov. Mike Leavitt