CRIME

Margaret Jensvold's suicide note shows agony over son's school, debt

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The couple placed their son in the county's special education program, but Barnhard said his son struggled in the system. He spent about nine months at Wellspring Academies, a weight-loss boarding school in North Carolina, returning in the spring more than 100 pounds slimmer and more confident.

A sign on the Kensington house in memory of Ben.

"He wanted to ride his bike. He wanted to be a kid again," Barnhard said. "He wanted to go out and have fun. He wanted to fly airplanes with his dad. He wanted to just do anything."

But there were still concerns about where to send Ben to school.

Jensvold appeared consumed by his education at her father's memorial service last spring, Slaughter said. She confided that she was having trouble paying the roughly $50,000 tuition for Ben to attend Wellspring. She presented a binder about five-inches thick detailing his academic needs, along with a chart showing how his IQ scores had fallen over the years.

At the end of June, Slaughter wrote her sister to say their mother would pay for Ben's education for the coming year. Jensvold had planned to enroll her son in the Ivymount School, a Rockville, Md., private school specializing in autism and other learning disabilities. Tuition there ranges based on a child's needs, but can be more than $60,000, the school said Monday. Her mother said she'd send a check.

In her final months, Jensvold only sporadically communicated with her family, as she had for years, Slaughter said. Emails to Jensvold frequently went unreturned, mail sometimes unopened.

Ben spent July 4 with his divorced parents aboard his dad's restored boat, treading past the Washington Monument with a picnic dinner of barbecue and fresh pineapple. It was a final moment of serenity.

He died a month later. One day after his body was found - co-workers hadn't heard from Jensvold for days and newspapers had accumulated outside the house - a $10,000 check from Jensvold's mother arrived, Slaughter said.

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