Man Who Helped Conceal Death of 29-Week-Old Aborted Baby Gets 9 Months Probation

State   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Aug 24, 2022   |   10:10AM   |   Lincoln, Nebraska

A Nebraska man received nine months of probation Tuesday for helping to conceal the death of a baby whose mother and grandmother allegedly killed in an illegal, late-term abortion.

WOWT 1011 reports Tanner Barnhill, 22, of Norfolk, has a mental health disorder and told authorities that he just thought he was helping a friend. Barnhill said he was not the baby’s father.

He pleaded no contest to the charge of attempting to conceal the death of another person in July. On Tuesday, Judge Donna Taylor sentenced him to nine months of probation and 40 hours of community service, according to the Norfolk Daily News.

“He acknowledges that what he did was wrong,” said Jason Doele, Barnhill’s attorney. “That’s why he pleaded at the arraignment stage. He wanted to address this head on.”

Barnhill helped Celeste Burgess, 18, and her mother, Jessica Burgess, 41, both of Norfolk, travel around the city in April when the mother and daughter allegedly buried, burned and then re-buried the aborted baby’s body, the Daily News reports.

Jessica Burgess is facing multiple charges for allegedly acquiring and administering abortion drugs to her teenage daughter, who was 29-weeks pregnant with a viable, late-term unborn baby. Abortions are illegal after 20 weeks in Nebraska. Celeste Burgess also has been charged with prohibited acts with human remains, concealing the baby’s death and false information.

On Tuesday, Barnhill’s attorney said his client’s cooperation with the police helped their investigation, and he is sorry for what he did. Doele also said Barnhill objected when the Burgesses allegedly told him they wanted to burn the baby’s body, the newspaper reports.

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“Without his cooperation with law enforcement, (prosecutors) are not anywhere near where they are now with their two cases with the other two defendants,” Doele said.

Here’s more from WOWT:

Tanner has a mental disability: an IQ of around 75 to 80. His attorney said he’s predisposed to be taken advantage of as he wants to fit in and be liked.

Investigators said he was open and honest when first confronted. He showed them all the locations of the burials, and his text messages with the other suspects cleared up the timeline. …

Doele told the court that his client told the others that “burning the fetus was wrong”; that “everyone is entitled to be buried,” and that he’s been saving up his money to pay any fines that may come with this.

The case has attracted national news attention and outrage from abortion activists who do not believe the grandmother or mother of the baby should be charged. Some even urged women to delete Facebook because the social media company provided information to police in response to a search warrant, according to Newsweek.

Initially, police said Jessica Burgess told them that her daughter had gone into premature labor and gave birth to a stillborn baby on April 22. However, police said they later found records online of conversations between the mother and daughter about abortion drugs in April.

According to CBS News, Jessica Burgess’s charges in Madison County District Court include performing or attempting an abortion at greater than 20 weeks, performing an abortion when not a licensed doctor, removing/concealing/abandoning a dead human body, concealing the death of another person and false reporting.

At first, police said their investigation centered around the improper disposal of the baby’s body. However, after further investigation, they said they discovered evidence that Jessica Burgess bought abortion drugs from a company in India and gave them to her pregnant daughter, according to the Norfolk Daily News.

Abortions are prohibited after 20 weeks in Nebraska, and illegal abortion charges are extremely rare. Madison Country attorney Joseph Smith said this is his first case involving abortion charges in his 32 years of practice, News 18 reports.

The teen is not facing abortion charges, only her mother is. Jessica Burgess allegedly put her daughter’s and unborn grandchild’s lives at risk by performing an illegal, late-term abortion.

Late-term abortions are risky for the mother as well as her unborn baby, and states that allow late-term abortions often require that they be done by a licensed doctor in a hospital because the risks are so high.

It is not clear from reports what abortion drugs Jessica Burgess allegedly obtained for her daughter, but the most common, mifepristone and misoprostol, are not recommended after the first 10 weeks of pregnancy.

Abortion activists claim stories like these prove that the pro-life movement wants to punish mothers for aborting their unborn babies, but the truth is that pro-life laws protect both mothers’ and babies’ lives.

Recently, pro-life leaders representing 70 organizations published an open letter opposing laws that punish mothers for abortions. The pro-life movement supports laws that prosecute abortionists and those who help them abort unborn babies.