Family and friends gathered Saturday to remember a pregnant woman and her unborn child who died in a horrific act of violence in 2015 near San Antonio, Texas.
Last February, the body of 18-year-old Dawanna Thomas was found by the Salado Creek after her boyfriend, Courtney Velasquez, allegedly drowned her and then attempted to burn her body and hide the evidence, LifeNews reported. Thomas’s mother, Tear Bedford, said her daughter was four-months pregnant, and Velasquez was pressuring her to have an abortion.
“(Velasquez) didn’t want nothing to do with the baby he kept calling me saying he wanted to get an abortion, I said we don’t believe in abortion. I said my baby is going to have the baby,” Bedford said.
On Saturday, Thomas’s friends and family held a memorial service and balloon release for her a year after she and her unborn baby were killed, KSAT 12 reports. Bedford and Thomas’s father, Arnold Ross, said they could not describe how painful the loss of their daughter has been, knowing how she suffered.
The family also used the occasion to encourage other women to leave abusive partners. Bedford said she knew Velasquez was not good for her daughter.
“I told my daughter that he was a bad person, but (you) can’t tell a teenager anything,” she said. “(You) have to let them find out, just like my mom had to let me find my way.”
She urged women to speak up if a man is abusing her.
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Velasquez was apprehended after relatives turned him in. One relative, who is not named, said that Velasquez confessed the murder to him.
According to the relative, Velasquez made statements such as “I can’t believe I did it!”, “I killed her”, and “I drowned her at the creek by Rittiman Road.” He also gave a detailed description of hiding the body. He told his relative that he planned to go back and burn the body to dispose of the evidence.
He is charged with capitol murder for the deaths of both the mother and her unborn child, according to the report.
Tragically, physical violence against pregnant women, sometimes leading to their and their unborn babies’ deaths, is common. At least 4 to 8 percent of women report being abused during pregnancy, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
In 2012, LifeNews reported a 23-year-old Philadelphia woman allegedly was shot to death by her boyfriend after she refused to abort their unborn child. In 2014, Life Dynamics reported another Texas man was accused of murdering his pregnant girlfriend and their unborn twins because he was afraid the babies would ruin his college and sports career plans.
Life Dynamics has documented the violence pregnant women can face when they refuse to submit to abortion. The report, Under the Radar Violence in the Conflict over Abortion, summarizes other tragic cases like these.