One of three suspects in Nebraska illegal abortion case sentenced to probation

One of three suspects arrested in a Nebraska abortion case is sentenced to probation.
Published: Aug. 23, 2022 at 5:30 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

NORFOLK, Neb. (WOWT) - A Nebraska abortion case heads to court as one of three suspects is sentenced.

Investigators say a teen — age 17 at the time — took abortion pills in April, burned the fetus, and followed up with a series of burials.

Now 18 years old, the teen and her mother from Norfolk are facing felony charges.

Tuesday, a bombshell in court for the 22-year-old friend who attempted to conceal the death.

Nebraska law allows abortions up to 20 weeks. Investigators say the teen was 29 weeks pregnant when she allegedly took medicine to induce a miscarriage.

For the first time Tuesday, the court heard about the 22-year-old man named in the case.

The defense said he’s not the father. In fact, he has special needs and simply thought he was helping a friend when it came to burying the unborn baby’s remains.

Tanner Barnhill, 22, from Norfolk, is checking into his next steps with his parents at county court after getting sentenced to nine months of probation Tuesday.

A Nebraska abortion case heads to court as one of three suspects is sentenced.

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.

Judge Donna Taylor seemed to acknowledge that if not for Tanner’s level of cooperation, the case against the mother and daughter wouldn’t have materialized.

His attorney, Jason 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 state also recognized the young man didn’t have ill intentions and negotiated the plea deal that led to a sentence of probation.

The mother and 18-year-old, Jessica and Celeste Burgess, are facing felony abortion charges. They’re due in court in the next couple of weeks.

Both have pleaded not guilty.