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Nebraska woman pleads guilty to burning fetus after abortion

OMAHA, Neb. – A Nebraska woman pleaded guilty on Monday to burning and concealing a fetus after taking medication to end her pregnancy, while prosecutors pursue a criminal case accusing her mother of unlawfully assisting in the abortion.

Prosecutors said Celeste Burgess gave birth to the stillborn fetus around 29 weeks and five days into her pregnancy. She was 17 at the time, but prosecutors charged her as an adult.

Burgess, now 18, pleaded guilty to a felony charge of concealing or leaving a corpse and prosecutors dropped two misdemeanor charges. The fetus was found buried in a field north of Norfolk in northeast Nebraska.

Jessica Burgess in Madison County Court, Neb., in 2022.WOW

Her mother, Jessica Burgess, 42, is accused of illegally assisting with an abortion last spring. The prosecutor involved said he had never charged anyone with violating Nebraska’s 20-week abortion limit that was passed in 2010. On Monday, Nebraska Governor Jim Pillen signed a ban on 12 week abortion. It took effect immediately.

The case against the mother and daughter rests in part on Facebook messages the two women exchanged about their plans to obtain the drug to induce an abortion and then burn the fetus.

Jessica Burgess has pleaded not guilty and is due back in court on July 7 for a preliminary hearing. His lawyer did not immediately respond to a message on Monday.

Celeste Burgess is due to be sentenced on July 20. She faces up to two years in prison. Prosecutors agreed not to make a sentencing recommendation.

According to court documents, the daughter spoke in the messages she exchanged with her mother “about how she can’t wait to get the ‘thing’ out of her body.” She also said “I’m finally going to be able to wear jeans” in one of the messages that investigators obtained with a search warrant.

In a message, Jessica Burgess told her daughter she got the pills and gave her instructions on how to terminate her pregnancy.

Last summer, a man pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for helping women bury the fetus.


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