by Maria Gallagher
LifeNews.com Staff Writer
August 22, 2004
Richmond, TX (LifeNews.com) — A case involving abortion, a murder charge, and the movie "The Passion of the Christ" continues to attract national attention.
Defendant Dan Leach was sentenced last week to 75 years in prison in Richmond, Texas, in connection with the strangulation death of his pregnant girlfriend, Ashley Nicole Wilson.
Leach has said he was led to confess the crime after watching "The Passion," which depicts the crucifixion of Jesus Christ in all of its reality and brutality.
The jury delivered the sentence after deliberating for about five hours. Wilson’s death was originally ruled a suicide, but Leach later admitted he had choked Wilson with the cord from her graduation gown.
Leach says he started thinking about killing Wilson the day after the 19-year-old told him she was pregnant. He has called himself a coward, conceding that he feared being abandoned by his family for getting Wilson pregnant.
Leach has said he might have spared Wilson’s life if she had agreed to obtain an abortion or if she had begged for mercy, but she did neither.
During his testimony Friday, Leach cried at times. However, at other times, he was stoic, noting that he felt like a machine the day he murdered Wilson.
After Leach said he was trying not to think during the killing, the prosecutor responded, "So I’ve got a robotic killer, is that right?"
Leach answered, "In a sense, yes sir."
He admitted, however, that at one point he thought about sparing her life. "I thought, ‘Can I stop? And will things be OK?’ That was at about seven minutes, and it was too late," Leach testified.
Research indicates that violence against women escalates during pregnancy, often in connection with a woman’s refusal to have an abortion.
In numerous cases, thanks to state unborn victims laws, the father of the unborn child has been charged not only with the death of the woman, but also with the death of the baby.
The rash of such crimes led to passage of the federal Unborn Victims of Violence Act, also known as Laci and Conner’s Law, which ensures that an unborn child is considered a crime victim when a federal act of violence is committed against the child’s mother.
The law is nicknamed in honor of Laci Peterson and her unborn son, Conner, who were murdered in California in late 2002.