by Steven Ertelt
August 30, 2007
Charleston, WV (LifeNews.com) — A West Virginia man is the second person to be indicted under a law that provides protection and justice for pregnant women and their unborn children. The state’s unborn victims law, one of three dozen across the nation, allows prosecutors to hold criminals accountable for killing or injuring both mother and child.
James Louis DeGasperin, a 35 year-old teacher from Preston, is charged with killing his 25 year-old girlfriend Lori Casteel and her unborn child.
Casteel, her son Collin, and her unborn baby, were all killed when DeGasperin hit her with a baseball bat and then killed Collin with a shotgun blast.
In addition to his indictment on first degree murder in the deaths of Casteel and Collin, DeGasperin was indicted for first degree murder in the death of the baby as well because Casteel was six months pregnant at the time.
That can happen because the West Virginia legislature, in 2005, approved Senate Bill 146 and it became law that May when Gov. Joe Manchin signed it.
Under the statute, "a pregnant woman and the embryo or fetus she is carrying in the womb constitute separate and distinct victims" for purposes of the state laws governing murder, manslaughter, and certain other crimes of violence.
West Virginians For Life and pro-life advocates had originally pushed for the law after the nationally televised case involving the deaths of Laci and Conner Peterson.
However, then-Gov. Bob Wise vetoed it and he claimed the pro-life group wasn’t interested in protecting women.
The only other case involving West Virginia’s law came when Allen Junior Bailey allegedly shot a pregnant woman in the stomach.
Police say Bailey fired several shots into a group of people and one of the shot hit Renada Graham. She survived but her baby was born 14 weeks prematurely and died the next day.
According to National Right to Life, some 35 states have laws protecting pregnant women and their unborn children. Some 25 provide justice throughout pregnancy while the other 10 only protect women in the latter parts of it.