Detective Shannon Jensen: determined and tenacious
By Celeste McNeil; photos courtesy of Shannon Jensen
Hard work, dedication and tenacity are more than mere adjectives; they have shaped the life of Douglas County Sheriff’s Office (DCSO) Detective Shannon Jensen. Jensen has consistently pushed herself to never give up.
Growing up in Southern California, Jensen stayed close to home after high school, attending Orange Coast College (OCC) with the intention of transferring to the University of California, Berkeley. That decision helped to shape the rest of her adult life. Hard work placed her in the top 1% academically of the OCC student body. Jensen earned scholarships, placement on the President’s List, and a permanent position in the college honor society. Dedication secured her a spot on the women’s rowing team. The only community college with a rowing team, OCC often dominated the big university teams. “We were called the ‘Giant Killers.’ Rowing really defined who I am and molded me into the person I am today. It taught me to never give up, to always do your best,” Jensen stated. She also learned how critical teamwork is – a skill that has served her well in life and that she continues to use regularly at the DCSO.
Jensen always knew she wanted to help others, especially those who faced seemingly insurmountable odds alone. “I wanted to be a voice and strength for those who had none or needed someone to speak for them. I had a strong desire to protect the weak and vulnerable.” She initially thought the FBI might be a good fit, but ultimately chose police work. After graduating from UC Berkeley, Jensen attended the police academy and was hired by the Oakland Police Department, where she worked for six years. “I have a strong sense of justice and love helping crime victims, giving them their voice and making sure they are safe. Everyone deserves to feel safe.”
After earning a Juris Doctorate degree from John F. Kennedy School of Law, Jensen relocated to Colorado. Once here, she started as a patrol deputy for the DCSO. Currently, she is the investigating detective over cold cases. “I am the cold case detective for DCSO. I love what I do.” Jensen regularly applies the life lessons she learned as a young adult to the roughly 25 open cold cases on her desk.
Tenacity recently led to the arrest in a 40-year-old cold case. Jensen was the lead detective in the Helene Pruzsynski murder case. Using hard work and modern DNA technology, Jensen determined James Clanton’s DNA matched DNA at the scene. She and various officers from multiple jurisdictions collaborated to make justice possible for Helene and her family. “Although it was my work that identified him, others worked to arrest and extradite him. Over the years, several detectives assisted with this investigation. In the end, all the work that was put into this case over the last four decades is what made it solvable” Jensen stated. Clanton pled guilty to first degree murder in February. He will be sentenced in April.
Possessing a keen awareness of the struggle and sacrifice women face to realize their dreams, Jensen is an illustration of inspiration. “I want other women, especially girls to know that if you are willing to work hard and apply yourself, you can do anything. – even the things everyone tells you you can’t. If my example inspires even only one girl to pursue her dreams and achieve something she wants but that seems out of her reach, I will feel like my sacrifices and the obstacles I have overcome have meant something.”