Norfolk woman, teenager charged with improper disposal of human remains after at home abortion
LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - A Madison County woman is facing a number of felony charges after police claim she communicated with a minor through Facebook to help her to have an illegal abortion and then bury the remains.
41-year-old Jessica Burgess of Norfolk has been charged with improperly disposing of human skeletal remains, concealing the death of another person, providing false information, and performing an abortion without a license.
According to court documents, an investigation began after police learned of a 17-year-old girl, who has since turned 18, had asked Burgess, who she knows, to help her bury the remains of a fetus. Medical records cited in those documents show the teen was found to be 23-weeks pregnant as of this March, with a July due date. Documents show the teen “unexpectedly gave birth” at home in the bathtub on April 22 when she was about seven months pregnant. That’s when she asked Burgess to help her bury the remains. The body was found buried north of Norfolk. The documents allege Burgess, the teen, and a third person attempted to burn the body prior to the burial.
The teen is also facing charges of prohibited acts related to human skeletal remains, concealing the death of another person, and providing false information. She had originally been charged as a juvenile but she is now being tried as an adult.
An autopsy performed on the body of the fetus revealed the lungs never contained air but according to court documents, this could mean it was a stillbirth or the fetus suffocated.
Since the charges were filed, Norfolk Police have interviewed both Burgess and the teenager.
During interviews with the teen, investigators say she referenced Facebook messages to look back on the date the miscarriage took place. According to documents, this prompted police to file a search warrant with Facebook that would later be granted for messages between Burgess and the teenager.
The messages obtained from Burgess’ account shed more light on what happened. According to documents, messages she exchanged with the minor discuss pills she obtained for the teenager online. The messages specify she needed to take one pill to stop hormones and then wait 24 hours before taking a second pill. A friend of the teen’s reached out to the Madison County Attorney’s Office and reported she saw the teenager take the first pill. The teenager then says she can’t wait to get the “thing” out of her body and confirms with Burgess that they will burn the evidence after.
According to documents, police learned Burgess bought medication online that would cause a miscarriage and the teen told police Burgess gave her the pills.
Documents also show a search warrant was conducted on the home and 13 items were taken, including phones and laptops.
Notes on the search warrants say it will take “weeks or months” to go through the evidence they’ve received from warrants.
Burgess has pleaded not guilty. She will appear in court in early September and a jury trial date has been set for October. She was held on a $10,000 bond. The teenager has also pleaded not guilty. She will appear in court at the end of August. A jury trial date has been scheduled for November. She was held on $20,000 bond and has since been released from jail.
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