During the early morning hours of August 29th, 1993, police were called to Chapel Hill Road where teenagers had discovered a person shot. Upon arrival, police found the deceased body of a seventeen-year-old girl who was identified as Michelle Jensen. She had a gunshot to the top of her head. Police soon learned that Michelle had a car and had been out with friends that night. Where was her car? Where were her friends? This is the story of the murder of Michelle Jensen.
Michelle Marie Jensen was born January 6th, 1976, in the District of Columbia. By 1993, she was a seventeen-year-old high school student in Davenport, Iowa. Michelle was a good student who was a member of the National Honor Society. She was involved with her church and taught bible school. She even volunteered for Habitat for Humanity. She loved music and singing. She was a member of her school and church choirs. She aspired to be a music therapist.
Michelle rebelled a bit her junior year of high school, which was not uncommon for teenagers. She started to date a stereotypical bad boy named Jesse. Michelle’s parents gave her a 1984 Ford Escort when she got her license. Her boyfriend, and his friends, took advantage of her having a car. One day, a few of her friends took her car and led police on a chase before crashing her car. Michelle’s parents became concerned about the friends she chose and said, “she had trouble saying no” (I Killed My BFF).
Michelle met Jesse’s friend, Jason Means, through her boyfriend. The two instantly bonded and became close friends. Even when Jesse broke up with Michelle, Jason remained a friend to her. The two enjoyed a close platonic relationship. They became best friends, even though the two were very different.
Jason Means was born May 17th, 1976. His parents split when he was younger, leaving Jason with just his mother and older brother. His older brother had chronic health problems and passed away when Jason was ten years old. He was athletic and gifted at math. However, he hung out with a less than ambitious crowd. As a result, he made some poor choices. At one point, Michelle had driven around as Jesse and Jason sniffed glue in the back of her car. Michelle got in a lot of trouble with her concerned parents.
The summer before her senior year, Michelle worked as a counselor at Independence Camp. The distance from her now ex-boyfriend and best friend Jason did Michelle good. She started to make better decisions and met a boy with a promising future. She was happy in her new relationship. When she returned back to Davenport, she was ready to start her final year of high school off on the right foot.
On the evening of August 28th, 1993, Michelle agreed to go to a party with her friend Jason. Since she started her new relationship, she had gotten better at telling Jason no to some of his wild ideas. However, she really valued her friendship with Jason and wanted to make things better. So off she went with her friend Jason to meet some of his new friends.
Jason introduced Michelle to his friends: Justin Voelkers, Anthony Hoeck, Christopher Felgenhauer, Joe Hager, and Shawn Shewmake. The boys had formed their own street gang called the Vice Lords. Jason had been recently “beaten into the gang” and was identified as a “foot soldier” (Quad-City Times, 1994). Anthony “Tony” Hoeck was the group’s ringleader and host of the party that August night. Tony was obsessed Scarface and had a criminal history that included carrying a concealed weapon at age fifteen, being in the possession of a stolen vehicle on two different occasions and had been accused of stealing another vehicle while on probation. His probation officer reported “This young man may again be before the court due to his association with delinquent peers” (Quad-City Times, 1994).
Justin Voelkers was a delinquent kid who was one of the two newest members of the newly formed gang, along with Jason. Christopher Felgenhauer was a friend of Tony’s and another member of their gang. Joe Hager was slightly older than the other boys and lived upstairs from Tony. Shawn Shemake, the final member of the gang, had a rough childhood plagued with domestic violence and alcohol abuse. Shawn began drinking at age eleven, using drugs by age thirteen, and had a history of criminal charges including theft and trespassing.
After police discovered Michelle’s body, they had to make the difficult notification to her parents. That is when police learned Michelle had been out with her friend Jason Means that night in her car. Upon interviewing Jason Means, police learned exactly what happened to Michelle Jensen that night.
Michelle and Jason (pictured) arrived at the home of Tony Hoeck in Davenport where the group was drinking and hanging out. As the night went on, Jason told Michelle about the group’s gang affiliation and that they wanted to rob a convenience store. Michelle had, in the past, let her friends talk her into things that got her in trouble. She wasn’t interested in getting into any more trouble. When Jason asked her if they could use her car, Michelle told him no.
With her refusal, Tony got very upset.
He said the gang needed to buy a kilo of cocaine and had to get the money for it from robbing the convenience store. When Michelle continued to refuse to allow them to use her car, Tony (pictured) ordered that she be hit in the head. Christopher Felgenhauer hit her over the head with a small fan. Michelle started bleeding and told Jason she wanted to leave. Tony instructed Justin and Jason to “get Bud”, a sawed-off shot gun” and “take care of business”.
Justin (pictured) and Jason escorted Michelle to her car. She was intoxicated and asked Jason to drive her vehicle home. On the way home, Jason stopped the car. He and Justin exited the vehicle and began to argue. Michelle got out of the vehicle, at which time a neighbor though she heard a man say “Get down, get down” followed by a gunshot. According to Jason, Justin shot her in the head with the sawed-off shotgun.
The boys then took Michelle’s car and returned to Tony’s house. The plan was then to rob the convenience store, but they decided it was too busy. Instead, they went to get food and discussed the crime they committed. They even attempted to return to the scene but realized police had already discovered her body and fled. Michelle’s vehicle was quickly located based upon Jason’s statement as well as “Bud”, the shot gun.
Justin was called in and gave a video-taped confession very similar to the video-taped confession given by Jason. Both of these indicated Tony Hoeck, Christopher Felgenhauer, Shawn Shewmake, and Joe Hager were involved in the murder. All the boys were arrested. A witness said that Justin Voelkers bragged about the murder, saying “That felt pretty good. I’d like to plug somebody else sometime” (Quad-City Times, 1994).
Hoeck, Voelkers, Means, Shewmake, Felgenhauer, and Hager were all charged with first-degree robbery, first-degree kidnaping, criminal gang participation, and conspiracy. Hoeck, Voelkers, Means, Shewmake, and Felgenhauer were also charged with first-degree murder. Hoeck, Voelkers, and Means were further charged with possessional of an offensive weapon. Hoeck was charged with sex abuse in the first-degree, although that charge was later dropped. It is unclear if Michelle was sexually assaulted.
The defendants all motioned for a change of venue following media coverage of the case, but this was denied. Voelkers and Means motioned to have their confessions suppressed. This was denied. Christohper Felgenhauer (pictured), Shawn Shewmake, and Joe Hager took plea deals. Christopher Felgenhauer plead guilty to robbery, kidnapping, and gang participation. He was sentenced to fifty-five years in prison (Hensley, 1994). Shewmake and Hager both plead guilty to first-degree robbery, second-degree kidnapping, and criminal gang participation and were sentenced to fifty years in prison each (Hensley, 1994).
The defense for Justin Voelkers claimed that the gun went off my accident because it was a quick pull trigger from being sawed off. There were a smaller than average number of shot gun pellets found in Michelle’s skull and the wound was at the top of her head. The defense theory was that this indicated a graze injury caused by accident. The prosecution contended that Michelle was likely on her knees at the time she was shot and was shot directly in the head from four to six feet away. Justin was found guilty and given two mandatory life sentences without parole plus fifty years at age nineteen. Jason Means and Tony Hoeck were both seventeen when they were convicted of all the charges against them. They were given mandatory life sentences for their crimes.
Michelle’s mother placed blame on the parents of Tony Hoeck, whose house was used for the party. She said, “To me, I blame the parents more than anything for this whole bit” (Wiley, 1994). After learning about the home lives of the defendants, Michelle’s mother went on to say, “Those kids didn’t have a chance to grow up healthy and to do the right thing and that’s one reason I think they found it so easy to kill just so they could belong” (Wiley, 1994). The Scott’s County State’s Attorney declined to prosecute any of the parents saying “They all lost kids for life. There’s a time for finality, to put it to rest” (Wiley, 1994).
Christopher Felgenhauer, originally sentenced to fifty-five years, was released on parole in 2010, after serving sixteen years in prison. According to the Iowa Department of Corrections website, Felgenhauer was on pretrial release with supervision for a serious misdemeanor in January 2019. Shawn Shewmake was released in 2017, after serving twenty-three years of his fifty-year sentence. Some of time was spent on supervised work release. Joseph Hager was released on parole in 2017 as well following time spent on work release.
In 2011, the United States Supreme Court determined that mandatory life sentences for juveniles was unconstitutional. With this ruling, the State of Iowa had to readdress the sentences of Anthony Hoeck and Jason Means. The ruling does not mean that juveniles could not get life without parole, but that it cannot be mandated. Michelle’s mother went before lawmakers and pleaded with them to keep Tony and Jason in prison and not allow them to become parole eligible. Despite her pleas, Iowa Supreme Court ruled that juveniles convicted of life sentences should be allowed to, at some point, go before the parole review board.
In 2014, the Quad-City Times reported a story about Elizabeth Klein. Elizabeth was given away for adoption and was just eight months old at the time of Michelle Jensen’s murder. As it would turn out, she was the daughter of Jason Means. She decided to write to him in prison and he was happy to reply to her letters and get to know his daughter. She eventually met him while he was in prison. Jason had received his GED while in prison and began serving as a eucharistic minister and cook for inmates. Elizabeth and Jason’s mother told the Quad-City Times that they were hoping for Jason to be granted parole.
Jason was released on parole in 2019 after serving twenty-six years in prison. He is currently on parole. Anthony Hoeck was released in 2018 and remains on parole at this time. Justin Voelker, the trigger man, was eighteen at the time of the crime, so was not given reconsideration for parole. He is the only one of the defendants that remains in prison at this time.
Michelle Jensen’s death was tragic and senseless. A group of misfits that some described as “white wannabe gangsters” took the life of a young girl with a promising future. The boys needed a car to commit a robbery, which they never actually committed. Jason Means was Michelle’s best friend. When she refused to allow him to use her car, he allowed his other friends to convince him to steal the vehicle. In that process, Michelle was shot in the head. Her trusting nature and toxic friendship with Jason Means put her in the wrong place at the wrong time that summer night.
Hensley, C. (1994). Slaying suspect gets 55 years. Quad-City Times, 20 May 1994
Quad-City Times (1994) The suspects and the girl they are accused of killing. Quad-City Times, 03 May 1994
Wiley, D. (1994) Woman blames teen’s parents for crime. The Des Moines Register, 01 Jun 1994.
State V. Hoeck (1996) State of Iowa V. Anthony Allen Hoeck. State v. Hoeck :: 1996 :: Iowa Court of Appeals Decisions :: Iowa Case Law :: Iowa Law :: US Law :: Justia
Wellner, B. (2014). Daughter of juvenile lifer hopes for parole, appeal. Quad-City Times. Daughter of juvenile lifer hopes for parole, appeal | Local Crime & Courts | qctimes.com
Clayworth, J. & Petroski, W. (2011) Juvenile parole rules face rewrite. The Des Moines Register, 27 Apr 2011.
I Killed My BFF (2013) Season 2 Episode 7 "Heartland Horror" available on Apple TV