Jackson County investigating death of unborn baby

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Brittney Burns – Staff Writer

Law enforcement in Jackson County are investigating the “murder of an unborn child.” The search warrant application specifically references the North Carolina law, “murder of an unborn child”  based on law in the state that prohibits most abortions after 20 weeks and the requirement that abortions should be performed by a licensed professional.

According to search warrants on file Monday morning, the investigation is reviewing whether a 38-year-old Jackson County woman illegally used medication she got from a friend to abort a pregnancy.

The Jackson County Sheriff’s office released a statement last Friday announcing the investigation of “the death of an unborn child and subsequent disposal of the child’s body in the Dillsboro community.”

While the search warrants don’t specifically state how far along the woman’s pregnancy was, interviews with a friend of the woman said that between October and December of last year, the woman admitted she thought she might be pregnant.

The friend told law enforcement that during the conversation, the woman said she had another friend had given her some pills “that are used to abort a pregnancy.” The woman told her friend “that the pills caused her vaginal bleeding.”

According to the friend, she spoke to the woman last week and the woman said she learned she was pregnant during a visit to the Jackson County Health Department in March. Records cited in the search warrant application confirm that the woman had a positive pregnancy test on March 20. The records also show that the woman told the health care provider that she had been researching online “how to do an abortion at home” and that she had been given four Misoprostol pills.

The medication is used to prevent stomach ulcers while taking NSAIDs (e.g., aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen), especially if you are at risk for developing ulcers or have a history of ulcers. The medication is also used in combination with another drug (mifepristone) to end a pregnancy (abortion).

The search warrant application says that after the positive pregnancy test, the woman instructed her friend to “call in a prescription” in the name of the friend’s boyfriend. The woman said she used the medication, which caused stomach pain. The woman said “she was sitting on the toilet and a baby came out,” according to the search warrant application.

The at-home abortion occurred at the woman’s boyfriend’s house. The friend who helped get the medication was at the house and “took the baby out of the toilet and cleaned it off,” according to the search warrant application. The woman and her boyfriend then “buried the baby in his yard.”

Authorities obtained search warrants last week to search the residence and a truck. No charges have been filed at this time.

In North Carolina, a law allows new parents to surrender a child safety without legal action. Safe Surrender (Surrender Newborns Safely) North Carolina’s Safe Surrender Law allows an overwhelmed parent to surrender a newborn (an infant up to seven days old) to a responsible adult safely and anonymously. This law is meant to prevent newborns from being hurt or abandoned. The law originated in Macon County when a Franklin woman murdered her newborn baby in February 2000. A student at Western Carolina University at the time, the woman gave birth to a baby in her apartment in Cullowhee. An autopsy showed that the brown-haired, brown-eyed, six and one-half pound baby girl had been carried full-term and was born alive.  The autopsy showed that she had air in her stomach and air in her lungs.  The medical examiner determined that the baby had died as a result of “intentional suffocation.“

Sheriff Robert Holland, who was then a detective for the sheriff’s department responded to the call at the landfill where employees had reportedly discovered a dead newborn baby.

“I had the misfortune of witnessing the aftermath of what happens to a baby after being thrown into a dumpster and sent through the bailing process,” said Sheriff Holland. “The baby had been compressed into an 8×6 bail and the baby’s legs were seen hanging out of the bail just seconds before she would have been dumped and buried amongst our filth.”

The woman was convicted on what would have been her daughter’s one year birthday. She was sentenced to between 94 and 122 months active jail time in a state correction facility. She has since been released. She was the first person in North Carolina to be convicted for second degree murder.

Holland said after that experience he advocated on the state level to establish the Safe Surrender law to give parents another option. He testified in front of the House Judiciary Committee in March 2001 and has continued to be a voice on the state level for the law and the programs established because of it being signed into law in July 2001.

“After the law was passed, I went and spoke in Winston Salem at a prevent child abuse event and only then did I learn I was actually there because the first baby saved by our new law was in that county,” said Holland. “It was a great feeling. When I testified before the Senate I asked to be called if a baby gets saved… because I needed to replace the image I was forever scarred with. I must have got 100 calls when the first baby was surrendered.”

A study conducted as a result of the new legislation found that an estimated 85 newborns are killed or left to die annually in the United States. In North Carolina. 2.1 per every 100,000 newborns in the state are killed or left to die. Of the cases researched, 21 percent of women were married, and 35 percent of the women had other children and nearly a quarter of the women had received prenatal care for the child.

While neither Jackson County or Macon County have designated “Safe Surrender” locations, Macon County Sheriff’s Office does provide information online at http://www.maconnc.org/safe-surrender.html for individuals who may be considering the option.

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