Nebraska teen in abortion case appears in court

The 18-year-old is free on a recognizance bond. She is due back in court on September 26.
A teen from northeast Nebraska made a court appearance Monday.
Published: Aug. 29, 2022 at 6:59 PM CDT
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MADISON COUNTY, Neb. (WOWT) - A Northeast Nebraska teen made an appearance in court Monday in an abortion case.

Celeste Burgess, 18, appeared in district court in Madison, Nebraska for a pretrial hearing. She is accused of taking pills to abort her 29-week-old baby, setting the fetus on fire, and then disposing of the body in a field north of town when she was 17 years old.

In Nebraska, abortions are banned after 20 weeks. She is now 18 years old and being charged as an adult.

Her appearance lasted less than two minutes. Burgess’ attorney asked for and was granted a continuance.

“There were some motions filed...I filed some motions. The defense may file some motions. Just the ones I filed had to do with getting preliminary determinations on the admissibility of certain evidence,” said Madison County Attorney Joseph Smith.

Court documents show those motions including pictures of the baby taken by law enforcement, the admissibility of Celeste Burgess’ statements, and medical expert testimony.

Celeste Burgess was allegedly aided by her mother, Jessica, 41, and Tanner Barnhill, 22. All are from Norfolk.

Barnhill has special needs and appeared in court last week. He is not the father of the child and he says he was just helping a friend. He was sentenced to nine months of probation.

“Well, everybody that was involved, if it goes to trial of course...witnesses are witnesses,” said Smith.

Investigators discovered several private exchanges on social media between Celeste and Jessica Burgess in the days leading up to the abortion, where they allegedly discussed the pills.

“We filed so many subpoenas and stuff for records on media...PayPal. Years ago I didn’t have that. You know 30 years ago...20 years ago. It was all towers and stuff we could only get certain data. People share stuff on social media that they wouldn’t share otherwise,” said Smith.

Smith says the particulars of this case make it unique.

“I don’t know that this is the type of situation that arises very often,” said Smith.

Celeste Burgess is free on a recognizance bond. She is due back in court on September 26.

Her mother, Jessica, is due in court later this week.