Denver teen who murdered her 7-year-old nephew sentenced to 7 years in Youth Offender Services

Jennie Bunsom, who smothered her 7-year-old nephew to death in their Montbello home in 2018, was sentenced Wednesday to seven years in Youth Offender Services.

Bunsom, now 18, had just turned 16 when she killed Jordan Vong and hid his body in a closet in her room. In March she pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and tampering with a body, both felonies, as part of a plea agreement.

On Wednesday, Bunsom, wearing a COVID-19 facial mask, handcuffed and shackled, addressed the court and District Court Judge Ericka Englert.

“Every day is a reminder of what I did,” Bunsom, sobbing, told the court. “There still has to be justice for Jordan, he was just a child. I took an innocent life, I have to pay for my sins.”

At the more than four-hour hearing, Bunsom’s defense team called witnesses, including a clinical psychologist, a behavioral health specialist and Division of Youth Services staffers, who have interacted with Bunsom since her incarceration in August 2018.

Marty Beyer, the psychologist, told the court of Bunsom’s troubled youth and upbringing, based in part on multiple interviews with Bunsom. Beyer told the court that Bunsom had been sexually assaulted, including by family members, growing up. Bunsom was bullied in middle school for being Asian, poor and skinny. She had a difficult and troubled relationship with her mother.

Bunsom was “emotionally delayed,” Beyer said. Trauma in her life sent her into an emotional downward spiral. Depressed, she acted out in anger and turned to alcohol and marijuana in her youth. She made more than one attempt to kill herself and was hospitalized several times. She was kicked out of high school for marijuana possession.

Since being jailed, most recently at the Mount View Youth Services Center, Bunsom has began to change her life, taking prescribed psychiatric medications and attending counseling sessions.

Jessica Way, a behavioral health specialist, who has worked with Bunsom at Mount View, described her as someone who is “absolutely positive,” a hard worker and a role model.

“She is very invested in her treatment,” Way said.

Prosecutors on Wednesday asked the court to remember the victim, Jordan.

“He was a joy to be around, he was a bright light,” Chief Deputy District Attorney Julie Hill told the court, showing a photo of Jordan on a screen.

After Jordan’s death, Bunsom hid the body. She was uncooperative and hateful toward police investigators when they were looking for Jordan, assuming he was a missing child. On Facebook, Bunsom was consoled by friends and followers, before the body was discovered, as she played the role of a grieving victim, Hill said.

Hill said Jordan fought for his life as Bunsom put her hand over his mouth to keep him from crying, keeping it there for at least five minutes, possibly longer, as he smothered. Hill described the attack as deliberate and horrific.

Jordan’s family has been suffering since his death, Hill told the court. His mother is battling depression. Prosecutors asked for the maximum sentence, under the plea agreement, 30 years in adult prison.

Englert handed down the seven-year term in youth services, with a 30-year suspended sentence in the Department of Corrections.

“This is a heartbreaking case all around,” Englert said. “Nothing we can do here can bring back a life that was lost, a life that was taken.”

Englert said she believes, based on evidence and testimony, that Bunsom is working hard to change her life and to somehow atone.

“The court is giving you an opportunity, I am going to take you at your word, that you will live your life for ‘good,’ ” Englert said. “I hope this provides you an opportunity for a different life.”

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