Norfolk, Nebraska: A mother and her daughter are facing charges related to a late-term at-home abortion following the discovery of the charred and buried remains of a child.
Another individual, Tanner Barnhill, 22, whose relation to the mother and daughter was not mentioned, has been charged as well. He faces a misdemeanor charge of concealing the death of another person.
The initial tip to police in April indicated that Celeste Burgess, now 18, had miscarried at 6 months pregnant in April, and that she and her mother, 41-year-old Jessica Burgess, had buried the body.
According to medical records obtained by the detective, Celeste was determined to have been approximately 23-weeks pregnant at the time. Her due date was July 3.
During initial interviews, Celeste reportedly told investigators that she had miscarried and given birth to a stillborn child in the shower sometime after midnight one night the previous week. She stated that she had woken her mother and they had placed the child's body into a bag and placed it in the back of a vehicle.
At a later time they drove north of town and buried the body with the assistance of Barnhill, on property owned by his parents.
On April 29, they reportedly showed investigators where the body was buried, and Barnhill disclosed that they had attempted to burn it before the burial.
In June, the initial charges against Celeste and Jessica were concealing or abandoning a dead human body, a felony, as well as concealing the death of another person and false reporting, both misdemeanors.
Following those charges, investigators received chat logs between Celeste and Jessica from Facebook as a part of a search warrant. It is not known when that search warrant was initially sent to the company.
Daring back to April 20, the two engaged in a conversation that suggested that Jessica had obtained unspecified abortion pills for her daughter and instructed her on their use.
It was in those conversations that investigators found messages where "[Celeste] talks about how she can't wait to get the 'thing' out of her body and reaffirms with [Jessica] that they will burn the evidence afterwards."
According to Life News, abortions in Nebraska are legal for any reason up to 20-weeks, and pregnant mothers are exempted from punishment. What is not exempted, however, are abortions conducted by untrained individuals.
Following that discovery, two additional charges were filed against Jessica; performing or attempting an abortion on a pregnancy at more than 20-weeks, and performing an abortion as a non-licensed doctor.
"I don't think I've ever had a case like this," Madison County Attorney Joseph Smith said on Friday, August 5. "Usually, abortions are performed in hospitals, and doctors are involved, and it's not the type of stuff that occurred in this case."
Depending on how you run a search though, this case is one that is fanning the flames of debate online over abortion access.
Two people murdered a fully formed baby at their house, burned and buried the evidence, had their dms seized via search warrant, are not being charged for an abortion itself but with "removing, concealing or abandoning a dead human body."— Greg Price (@greg_price11) August 9, 2022
This is how the media is framing it. pic.twitter.com/EcSlDsYmaN
The above tweet shows just a small sampling of the headlines that have been posted to the internet in the wake of this case- many making it appear as though both mother and daughter are facing charges of abortion.
As abhorrent as it is that Nebraska allows abortions up to 20-weeks, the laws under which Jessica stands charged are in place to protect, at the very least, the life of the mother.
In a world where few read beyond the headline, of if they're dedicated to truth, at least read the following splash that appears with the headline, it's no wonder that people are becoming upset.
Jessica is due back in court on September 2 at 9:00 am and Celeste is scheduled to be back in court on August 29, at 9:00 am. Both have plead not-guilty to the charges against them.
Barnhill plead no contest to the charge against him and will be sentenced at 2:30 pm on August 23, 2022.