Jasmine Mendieta Van Herpen & Nathan Mendieta

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On August 20, 2008, they found their way into my car (something they have never done before) and died from hyperthermia. My Beautiful Angels Jasmine & Nathan, you two are loved and missed more and more everyday!

– Mom

 

Mother wants to make sure tragedy doesn’t happen again

written by: Jeffrey Wolf written by: Anastasiya Bolton  Friday, September 18, 2009

CASTLE ROCK – Their pictures alone caught a lot of people’s attention and if you’d ever met 5-year-old Jasmine and 2-year-old Nathan, their mother says you would have fallen in the love with them.

“”Jasmine, she always wanted to be in charge,”” Stacey Mendieta said. “”Nathan, my baby, big little boy. [He had] the biggest smile.””

It’s been a year since police found the two dead in a hot car.

On Aug. 20, 2008, Mendieta says she was taking a nap with Nathan inside her home.

A scene from Copter4 of the Mendieta home the day the children were found.

She didn’t hear Jasmine wake him up and the both children leave through the back door.

Mendieta says what happened next was an accident and she will never forgive herself for it.

“”Never in a million years did I think something like this would happen,”” Mendieta said. “”They’ve never left the house on their own, never tried getting in the car on their own. It doesn’t make any sense and I’ll never understand. Some days, it’s so hard to believe, it’s still so fresh, like it was yesterday.””

The children got into her car, which was parked in front of the home, and investigators believe for some reason, the two fell asleep and ultimately died from the extreme heat.

Prosecutors charged the then 28-year-old mother with two counts of child abuse resulting in death.

On Sept. 3, Mendieta pleaded no contest to a lesser child abuse charge. In exchange, prosecutors agreed not to seek prison time. She was sentenced to 300 hours of community service.

She says without Jasmine and Nathan, she had to find a new reason to live.

Right after their deaths, even before a judge sentenced her, she created the JENA project. JENA stands for Jasmine Elizabeth and Nathan Alexander.

“”I want to talk to pre-schools, churches, nurseries, fire stations, libraries, anywhere that will allow me to talk about extra precautionary steps that families can take inside their home and within their community,”” Mendieta said. “”High-up latches on the doors, possible bells on the doors, high up so the kids can’t reach and take off.””

Mendieta says in her presentations she’ll talk about the fact that it’s OK to say something if you see children unattended in a car.

The day her son and daughter died, someone saw them playing in the vehicle, didn’t think anything of it and didn’t mention it to anyone until it was too late.

Mendieta says she’s working on programs for parents and children.

“”A car is hot, it’s not a playground; it’s not a hide-and-go-seek hiding place. Just talk to them on the kid level,”” she said. “”Last year, there were 43 children that lost their lives. This year to date, it’s 29. It’s a decrease, but I want to see that at zero. I hope the JENA project will have an impact on that.””

Mendieta says she has an option to do either 300 hours of community service or 50 presentations. She plans to do much more than that.

“”It’s gonna be my life-long mission, my project forever,”” she said. The 29-year-old still talks about Jasmine and Nathan in the present tense. She says they are, and always will be, with her.

“”If I can save one life, help one family, I’ll be happy. I want Jasmine and Nathan to be proud of me,”” she said. If you’d like Mendieta to speak on the subject, you can contact her at [email protected]

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