1. Archive

Slain tourist's spouse approves of verdicts

A German biology teacher knows the American criminal justice system much better than he would like or ever dreamed he would.

But Christian Jensen, the husband of a vacationer killed two years ago in a botched robbery, was heading home for Germany this weekend satisfied with two murder convictions carrying long mandatory prison terms.

"You see me smiling now. That means not that I am happy but relieved," Jensen said outside court after hearing a second set of guilty verdicts Friday. "The results are wonderful."

The killing of Barbara Meller-Jensen gained infamy as an inadvertent death at the hands of street criminals intent on a "bump-and-rob" holdup, hitting a motorist's bumper and robbing the occupants once they stopped. Her murder was one of several tourist murders in South Florida that gave Miami a black eye with European tourists. Mrs. Meller-Jensen died when the defendants' fleeing car crushed her skull.

Jensen was asleep when his father-in-law left a message on his answering machine. His wife had been hurt badly just after flying into Miami on April 2, 1993. A Miami detective told him a short time later that his wife, a physical therapist, was dead.

Jensen traveled to Miami to retrieve his wife's body and take home his 6-year-old son, 2-year-old daughter and mother-in-law. Arrests were made before he headed back to Berlin.

He kept up with the case through a German attorney in Miami and returned for the two-week trial of Anthony Williams and Leroy Rogers. After testifying, he attended as a spectator and spoke to reporters at length in German and English at the end of each day.

"I am optimistic about your justice system. I was sometimes very critical with it," he said, noting his opposition early this month to trial attorneys interviewing his son Alexander _ the only person to give an eyewitness account.

While still missing his "wife and companion" and concerned about his son's nightmares, Jensen thinks her death holds significance beyond his family.

"Her name stands in Miami also for several attempts to improve the security for tourists," he said. His initial impression of the city was bleak, but he now says, "I would say Miami is as safe or unsafe as any American city."

Jensen thinks the men face harsher punishment than they would have for the same crime in Germany because he doubts they would have faced first-degree murder charges.

Asked how he would tell his son about the trial results, Jensen said the sentence "is a very long time, and that's OK for us, and we can live with that verdict very good."