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Nebraska woman pleads guilty to burning fetus after abortion

The woman's mother is accused of illegally helping with the abortion last spring.
/ Source: Associated Press

OMAHA, Neb. — A Nebraska woman pleaded guilty Monday to burning and concealing a fetus after she took medication to end her pregnancy, while prosecutors move forward with a criminal case accusing her mother of illegally helping with the abortion.

Prosecutors said Celeste Burgess gave birth to the stillborn fetus about 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 abandoning a dead body and prosecutors dropped two misdemeanor charges. The fetus was found buried in a field north of Norfolk in northeast Nebraska.

Jessica Burgess in court in Madison County, Neb., on Sept. 2, 2022.
Jessica Burgess in court in Madison County, Neb., in 2022.WOWT

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

The case against the mother and daughter is based partly on Facebook messages the two women exchanged about their plan to obtain the medication to induce an abortion and then to burn the fetus.

Jessica Burgess has pleaded not guilty and is due back in court on July 7 for a pretrial hearing. Her lawyer didn’t immediately respond to a message Monday.

Celeste Burgess is scheduled 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 talked in the messages she exchanged with her mom “about how she can’t wait to get the ‘thing’ out of her body.” She also said “I will finally be able to wear jeans” in one of the messages investigators obtained with a search warrant.

In one message, Jessica Burgess told her daughter she obtained the pills and gave her instructions on how to end her pregnancy.

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