The aftermath: Reminders of daughter's death still weigh heavily 2 years later

Mother calls for victims' rights as she waits on judicial process

Published: Sunday, Dec. 9 2012 5:25 p.m. MST

Hensley texted her daughter several times the next day with no response. It wasn't until 11:15 a.m. — more than seven hours after Christensen's body was discovered by police — that the officer came to her door.

Two days later Hensley got to see her daughter's body, which by then had been embalmed and prepared for a funeral.

"I could not wrap my brain around it. To me, she was still here. I didn't ID her body. To me they made a mistake. So for two days of sheer hell I was waiting for my daughter to walk through that door at any moment and say, 'Elo, mom,'" she said, recalling how she and her daughter would jokingly talk to each other in fake British accents. "I waited and waited for that and it never came."

Christensen had reportedly been asked by Fiske to help Jerden move that night. Somehow, the three ended up at Ashton's apartment. When Jerden was shot, Christensen was hiding in a bathroom. Hensley said her daughter happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time that night.

Smith attacked Christensen "with the intent to prevent her from testifying" about the shootings, according to an arrest warrant police wrote. Smith assaulted Christensen "at the direction of Paul Ashton," he warrant states.

Hensley, however, believes Smith had the chance to just walk out of the apartment and leave her daughter alone.

"He could have been the hero that night," she said. "Brandon Smith could have made a really big decision that night and it could have gone a completely different direction and my daughter would still be alive … but he didn’t. He made a choice. He took the life of a person he didn't even know was in the house. He was unaware she was even in there, didn't even know who she was."

Ashton — who was leaving the area just as police were arriving and was immediately pulled over and questioned — told officers he shot Jerden in self defense after she attacked him with a tool box, the warrant states. Ashton also claimed he told Smith to come to his apartment and bring a gun because "someone was trying to kill him."

Smith called 911 several hours later, saying he "just woke up and was covered in blood," according to court records. He claimed to "black out" after giving Ashton a gun.

The day after the deaths, Fiske wrote on his Facebook page: "I was shot in the back when my girlfriend was murdered over a missing mountain bike! I wish I could take her spot!! I would take her spot anytime!!! I miss her so much!"

Police and prosecutors have remained fairly tight-lipped about the incident, including not revealing a possible motive. At one point, Ashton's defense attorney asked a judge to close all pre-trial hearings to the public. Neither prosecutors nor Ashton's defense attorney returned repeated calls from the Deseret News.

Hensley said prosecutors from the Washington County Attorney's Office have been good about keeping her up to date on the case. She said she knows about some of the evidence collected that has not yet been made public, which she declined to talk about.

But she believes that when some of the facts come out in court, the public will be surprised to hear how everything went down.

"Everything will eventually come to light, and when it does, I think the public is going to be really shocked," she said.

Until then, Hensley will try to get through the holidays the way she has struggled through everything else since her daughter's death. But it's far from easy.

"Losing her was just like losing myself, like having an amputation. It's gone, but you remember what it was like, and even if it gets replaced it's still gone," she said.

The accused

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