A Nebraska teenager allegedly aborted, burned, and buried her baby with the help of her mother. Major media outlets that covered the story obfuscated these key facts, instead highlighting that Facebook assisted law enforcement in uncovering the alleged crimes by providing the duo’s messages.
Forty-one-year-old Jessica Burgess and her 17-year-old daughter, Celeste Burgess, face felony charges. Jessica Burgess pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial, while her daughter also pleaded not guilty to three charges that included a felony, according to the Lincoln Journal Star.
A 22-year-old man (Tanner Barnhill, according to The Daily Beast), who was accused of helping the mother-daughter duo bury the baby, has also pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor. He will be sentenced later this month, the Lincoln Journal Star reported.
Media that covered the story were quick to emphasize the disclosure of the Facebook messages to authorities, to bury the accusation that the baby was burned, and to refer to the baby’s death using the lingo pushed by abortion groups, as a “self-managed abortion”:
- Forbes headlined its story: “Facebook Gave Nebraska Cops A Teen’s DMs So They Could Prosecute Her For Having An Abortion.” The story’s lede makes no mention of the fact that the mother and daughter allegedly burned and buried the baby — in fact, the Forbes story does not once mention the word “burn.”
- NBC News headlined its story: “Facebook turned over chat messages between mother and daughter now charged over abortion.” Neither the story’s lede nor its subhead mentions that the baby was allegedly burned and buried. The story does not mention once that the women allegedly burned the baby.
- The Huffington Post headlined its story: “Facebook Gave Cops Data To Prosecute Nebraska Teenager Who Allegedly Had An Abortion.” The story mentions later on that the duo allegedly burned the baby.
- The Cut headlined its story: “Mom and Teen Daughter Accused of Illegal Abortion Based on Facebook Messages,” while CBS News headlined its story: “Nebraska mother, teenager face charges in teen’s abortion after police obtain their Facebook DMs.” Both of these outlets mentioned that the baby was allegedly burned.
“This marks one of the first instances of a person’s Facebook activity being used to incriminate her in a state where abortion access is restricted — a scenario that has remained largely hypothetical in the weeks following the US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade,” the Forbes story notes — a sentiment echoed by those who shared the publication’s story.
Hiding The Aborted Baby
A search warrant affidavit reviewed by the Lincoln Journal Star reveals that a Norfolk police detective launched an investigation into the death of the baby pursuing a tip that the daughter had buried a miscarried baby with her mother — possibly violating the state’s pre-Roe ban on abortions after 20 weeks.
The publication reported that after obtaining her medical records and establishing that she was more than six months (23 weeks) pregnant, the detective met with Celeste Burgess and her mother.
The two claimed that Celeste Burgess had suddenly birthed her stillborn baby in the shower in the middle of the night, the Lincoln Journal Star reported that court records show, woken her mother, stowed the baby in a bag in the back of their van, and later buried the baby with the help of the 22-year-old man.
That man revealed to police on April 29 that Celeste and Jessica Burgess had tried to burn the baby’s body before burying it on his parents’ property — and authorities who examined the baby’s body found “thermal wounds,” the Lincoln Journal Star reported.
The baby was indeed stillborn, an April 30 autopsy found.
Authorities — unaware that the baby had been illegally aborted — reportedly charged the women in early June with removing, concealing, or abandoning a dead human body, as well as concealing the death of another person and false reporting.
But the detective then served a search warrant on Facebook and found messages indicating that the mother had bought or obtained abortion pills for her daughter and told her how to take them, the publication reported.
“When I conducted the interview with C. Burgess I wanted to try and figure out when the miscarriage occurred,” the detective said, according to a complaint obtained by The Daily Beast, adding, “C. Burgess scrolled through her messages on her Facebook Messenger account,” trying to show detectives that she had messaged her mom on the night of the incident.
“Are we starting it today?” Celeste Burgess allegedly asked her mother in April 20 Facebook messages, according to records posted by the New York Post, to which her mom replied, “We can if u want,” adding, “the one will stop the hormones.”
The two discuss the process of taking the abortion pills before Celeste Burgess reminds her mother, “Remember we burn the evidence.”
“Yep,” her mother responds.
“Once everything is out,” the daughter continued.
“Yep,” the mom answers. “Thought u would b happy 2 hear the stuff came in.”
“Yes,” responds the daughter. As her mother moves on to discuss the thunder outside, the daughter continues, “I will finally be able to wear jeans.”
The detective wrote in his affidavit that the daughter described “how she can’t wait to get the ‘thing’ out of her body and reaffirms with J. Burgess that they will burn the evidence afterward,” the Lincoln Journal Star reported.
The messages led Madison County Attorney Joseph Smith to add two more felonies, performing or attempting an abortion on a baby older than 20 weeks, as well as performing an abortion as a non-licensed doctor, to the charges against the mother.
In Nebraska, babies may not be aborted past 20 weeks.
“I don’t think I’ve ever had a case like this,” Smith, who has served as county prosecutor for 32 years, said on Friday. “Usually, abortions are performed in hospitals, and doctors are involved, and it’s not the type of stuff that occurred in this case.”