Final suspect in Nebraska illegal abortion case appears in court

The third suspect in an illegal abortion case appeared in court Friday
Published: Sep. 2, 2022 at 5:39 PM CDT
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MADISON COUNTY, Neb. (WOWT) - The final suspect in a bizarre abortion case in northeast Nebraska appeared in court Friday.

The case is of a then 17-year-old girl allegedly conspiring with her mother to get pills to abort a 29-week-old fetus in Norfolk.

Jessica Burgess is the mother of the teen, now 18 years old, that allegedly ordered abortion pills on the internet.

The fetus was aborted in its 29th week. The state allows abortions for up to 20 weeks.

In district court in Madison, Nebraska, her attorney Brad Ewald asked for a continuance.

“There’s obviously some discovery still going on,” Ewald said. “In addition, I believe the state has filed calling for a 104 hearing.”

A 104 hearing deals with admitting evidence into a criminal case.

Prosecutor Matthew Kiernan on the prosecution’s motion:

“At that hearing, the state will be offering two DVDs with some photos and video evidence,” Kiernan said. “I propose to have those at least marked today and provide them to the court so that it can at least be reviewed before we have the hearing. I have provided copies to the defense council.”

Kiernan told judge Mark A. Johnson the DVDs contain a police officer’s body camera video and a selection of still photographs.

Court documents lay out more evidence.

A search warrant asking for computers, phones and electronic devices at the Burgess home, where Jessica and Celeste both live.

A social media search turned up conversations between the mother and daughter last April where they discuss getting abortion pills on the internet to terminate the pregnancy.

Jessica messaged “It came today,” and “what I ordered last month.”

Celeste answered back “Remember we burn the evidence...once everything is out”

Jessica replies “yep.”

Celeste told investigators her baby was stillborn on April 29.

Court documents state she placed the body in a bag and in a box, placing it in the back of a cargo van.

They were then assisted by 22-year-old Tanner Barnhill who told investigators how the Burgesses tried to hide the body.

The suspects then burned the fetus and tried to conceal it by burying it in a secluded area a few miles north of Norfolk.

Both he and Celeste showed investigators where the body was buried. Judge Johnson granted the defense a continuance to view the DVDs and file any counter motions.

Meanwhile, Jessica Burgess remains out on bond.

She had nothing to say while leaving the courthouse.

Tanner Barnhill was given 9 months probation for his part in the incident.

Jessica Burgess is due back in court Oct. 6 for the motions discussed in court Friday.

Her pre-trial court date is Nov. 4, and should the case go to a jury, that trial is set for Dec. 12.