Two children found dead in Douglas County
By Kirk Mitchell
The Denver Post
Article Last Updated: 08/21/2008 09:04:36 AM MDT
The bodies of two children were found inside a car parked in front of a Castle Pines North home Wednesday afternoon, authorities said.
Ken Vanherpen, the home's owner, identified them as his grandchildren, 5-year-old Jasmine and 2-year-old Nathan. He said the children, along with their 28-year-old mother, Stacey Mendieta, who is his daughter, moved into his house in February just before Mendieta filed for divorce.
He said the father, from Honduras, is "gone."
The bodies were found by Douglas County sheriff's deputies after someone in the home at 983 Bramblewood Drive called at 3:15 p.m. to report two missing children, said Cocha Heyden, a sheriff's spokeswoman.
Minutes after deputies arrived, the bodies were discovered, Heyden said. Vanherpen said deputies found the children.
"My wife called me at work and said, 'Stacey can't find the kids,' " Vanherpen said.
He said he returned home to find deputies searching the house and the area.
Jasmine was found on the floor in the front of the red Honda Civic parked in front of the house, and Nathan was found on the floor of the back seat.
"I want to know how the children died," Vanherpen said. "They've never gone in the car before. I'm as baffled as anybody. I don't understand how Jasmine couldn't get out."
Vanherpen said the children weren't supposed to be outside and had sneaked out of the house. He said that his daughter is devastated and that she and his wife were at the Douglas County Sheriff's Office in Castle Rock.
He said Jasmine was scheduled to begin kindergarten this fall. Vanherpen called Jasmine and her brother "great kids."
"She was a wonderful little girl," he said. "He was a tank. He was learning to talk. They were like my own children. I put them to bed at night. They would wake up in our bed."
Stacey worked a late shift for a telecommunications company so that her parents could watch them when she was at work, neighbor Dona Aldrich said. She filed for divorce from Hugo Mendieta, 26, in March. The divorce was finalized last Thursday.
She was talking about marrying a man she had met, Vanherpen said.
"She was going to get remarried," he said.
Aldrich said that Stacey met a Kuwaiti man on the Internet and that she was going to take the kids on an overseas flight to meet him for the first time Tuesday, but the trip fell through. She said she didn't know why.
Aldrich said the family often took the kids to the pool or to restaurants.
"She spent as much time as she could with them," she said. "She seemed like a real good mom. The kids always seemed happy, and that was a good sign."
How the kids ended up in the car is a mystery, Aldrich said.
"Why it happened we may never know," she said. "I don't think anybody would have thought a terrible accident like this could happen."
Several neighbors said no one knocked on their doors searching for the kids.
Authorities Wednesday night had not confirmed any of Vanherpen's information.
The Douglas County coroner's office took the bodies away for autopsies. It had not been determined whether the deaths were the result of an accident, Heyden said.
She said an investigation was continuing.
Kirk Mitchell: 303-954-1206 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Heat killed kids found in Dougco car
By Kirk Mitchell
The Denver Post
Article Last Updated: 08/29/2008 06:12:20 PM MDT
The Douglas County coroner's office has determined that two children found dead inside a car in front of a Castle Pines North home died of hyperthermia.
The bodies of Jasmine and Nathan Mendieta, ages 5 and 2, were found in a Honda Civic in front of 983 Bramblewood Drive on Aug. 20, said Cocha Heyden, spokeswoman for the Douglas County Sheriff's Office.
The siblings were discovered after deputies were called on a report of missing children. The deputies found Jasmine's body on the floorboard in the front of the car, and Nathan's body was found on the floor in the back.
The investigation is ongoing, Heyden said. No arrests have been made.
The children's mother, Stacey Mendieta, 28, moved in with her parents in February after separating from her husband.