…one boy was 14 years old. He lived in Redlands, California. His name was Tristan Jensen. When he was a young child, Tristan lived with his mother, who died of cancer when her son was only 4 years old. After her death, he was alone; his father was in a Chino jail. Lucky for Tristan, his grandmother, took him to live with her. His aunt and his two cousins lived next door. When Tristan turned 13, he moved in with his aunt and cousins. The blended family was happy and the three boys were like brothers. In August 1998, Tristan went missing. Always reliable, his family and friends had no idea where Tristan could be and the following day they contacted police. Frankly, why anyone waits a day to call police when a child goes missing is beyond my understanding. Anyway. In spite of an intensive search, Tristan’s family waited for 6 weeks for news of what happened to their boy. In September 1998, Detectives Elton and Brandon visited the family to tell them that about a grisly find. A sewer had been blocked at Hibiscus Drive and Gardenia Avenue by small skeletal remains. They were there to collect any possible piece of DNA evidence, a hair, body fluid, anything, from Tristan. Tristan’s grandmother produced his last baby tooth he’d lost at the age of 12, and it was rushed to a forensic laboratory for comparison with the skeletal remains. It was a match. Finally, the family had some type of closure: the search for Tristan was over. The search for his killer, however, had just begun.
J P Remsen
...the other boy in this tragic tale lived a few blocks away. His name was John Proctor (J P) Remsen (oddly, rhyming with Jensen). J P was 15 years old and in Tristan’s class at school. He was a big boy, about 5’10” in height and easily 170 lbs or more. J P was also an only child, except he had two parents. He also had an obsession with knives and explosives, hobbies his father, John, encouraged, and his mother, Susan, ignored. John also stored a few explosives of his own in the garage. J P had few friends and it was no wonder. He was not popular with girls and he spent much time alone, torturing and killing defenseless animals. He was a bully who also targeted smaller, younger human victims. This may have had something to do with his extreme unpopularity. He was also an acquaintance of Tristan.
J P pretty much gave himself away, as many young killers are apt to do. He showed acute interest in the crime scene and was always there. He went so far as to tell police that on the day Tristan went missing, he witnessed two men getting out of a van and dumping something into that very sewer. Police quickly determined such a strange story could never hold up for many reasons, least of all that J P claimed it took place in daylight, and they brought the odd teenager in for questioning. J P eventually admitted that Tristan had accidentally died in his basement, but it wasn’t his fault. He told police he had a knife collection and Tristan was interested in purchasing an Arkansas hunting knife with a 15 inch blade. Tristan had the knife in his hand and somehow he fell over the stairs. Tristan landed on the knife, and this was what killed him. Of course the flimsy excuse didn’t hold up. Had it been an accident, J P would have immediately called 9-1-1. After changing his story several times, J P admitted he stabbed Tristan to death during a heated argument. J P agreed to re-enact the actual murder at his own house. Coldly, he explained how he stabbed Tristan in the abdomen after Tristan called him a name. J P claimed he pulled out the knife then stabbed Tristan again. This time the blade went into Tristan’s abdomen and out through his back. Ouch. Seriously. J P then carried Tristan’s body into his yard and hid it in some trees. Around 11:30 a.m., in broad daylight, he threw Tristan’s body down into the sewer. His statements were consistent with the evidence at the scene especially with the many blood spatters still on the walls.
That he could commit the crime and dispose of the body in such a short period of time amazed investigators. J P managed to kill Tristan and dispose of him within 4 hours, before his mother returned home. He explained the blood in the garage to his mother by claiming their two dogs got into a fight and the blood belonged to one of the dogs. His parents didn’t question this explanation. Later when investigators returned to the Remsen household, they found a hacksaw covered in blood. The blood turned out to be animal blood, however police believed J P made an unsuccessful attempt to cut up Tristan before disposing of the body. Tristan’s grandmother was astounded that another child was capable of the murder but his cousin remembered him as a bully and “a really weird kid.” Detective Elton said the case stays with him today and gave him a better understanding of effects bullies can have at school.
When officers searched the Remsen residence they found an overwhelming number of explosives stored in the family garage. The materials were believed to be so unstable, the surrounding neighborhood was evacuated, bomb squads called in and some devices detonated in a make-shift bunker outside the home. Loud explosions could be heard for miles around as bomb after bomb was detonated. Some of the investigators wanted J P Remsen tried as an adult however ultimately it was a bench trial in case jurors took pity on such a young offender. All through the trial, J P was cold and emotionless. Reasons for J P’s hatred of Tristan were oddly superficial:
- Tristan had girlfriends and no girls liked J P.
- J P brought alcohol to school and Tristan reported him to his teacher
- The two boys were interested in the same girl and J P knew Tristan would be her choice
San Bernardino County District Attorney Mike Ramos claimed that J P began killing animals, and worked his way up to murdering Tristan. Quite possibly he would have become a serial killer had he not been caught. The judge found J P guilty of second degree murder although in all actuality it was first degree murder. He also received an odd sentence: 15 years to life, meaning he is eligible for parole in 7 years. J P’s father was given 2 years in prison for what can only be called a hopelessly ironic charge in relation to his dangerous child, being child endangerment. Both parents were also charged with possession of unregistered firearms, and possession of explosive devices. John Remsen’s bail was set at $1million. Susan Remsen’s was set at $500,000. His mother was given 3 years of probation. It’s easy to simply label children like J P Remsen as “psychopaths”, “bullies”, or “monsters.” However, like every child murderer, J P Remsen was likely raised in a highly dysfunctional, abusive home. Physical and sexual abuse was probably a daily part of his life. In short, he knew only violence and humiliation from a young age. His rage and frustration were reflected in his knife collection, and in the explosives and fireworks he collected. Arson was probably among his finer hobbies. His anger and low self-esteem culminated in Tristan Jensen’s brutal killing. It was not revealed whether or not he sexually mutilated Tristan after death but I suspect that was the case. All of these factors combine to reveal the troubled mind of a dreadfully abused child.