Teen charged in northeast Nebraska abortion case appears in court

Published: Aug. 29, 2022 at 4:28 PM CDT
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MADISON, Neb. (KTIV) - A northeast Nebraska abortion case headed back to court Monday as one of the three suspects went before a judge.

Prosecutors charged 41-year-old Jessica Burgess with helping her then 17-year-old daughter end her pregnancy, and then burn and bury the fetus.

Now 18 years old, Celeste Burgess, of Norfolk, appeared in Madison County court, Monday, for a pre-trial conference.

She’s charged with remove/conceal/abandon a dead human body, which is a felony, and two misdemeanors including concealing the death of another person.

Celeste Burgess’ defense attorney asked the judge to continue today’s hearing to next month. That motion was granted.

But, Madison County Attorney Joe Smith has filed a motion to admit certain evidence to the trial. That includes photos of the baby taken by law enforcement, Celeste Burgess’ recorded statements, and the qualifications of Doctor Erin Linde, who performed the autopsy on the fetus. Court documents say Dr. Linde will testify the fetus was 29 weeks and 5 days when it was delivered.

“Abortions are essentially illegal up until... in Nebraska (after) 24 weeks,” said Joe Smith, Madison County, NE Attorney. “I think I read someplace that 85 percent of them are done in the first few months. So, I don’t know that this is the type of situation that arises all that often if at all.”

Celeste Burgess will be back in court for another pre-trial conference on September 26th. Her trial is set to start on Nov. 14.

Last week, 22-year-old Tanner Barnhill, of Norfolk, was sentenced to 9 months probation for his role in the case.

The defense says he is not the father of the teen’s child, but instead, he has special needs and simply thought he was helping a friend. Barnhill’s attorney says his disability leaves him predisposed to be taken advantage of.

The state recognized Barnhill did not have ill intentions and negotiated the plea deal that led to last week’s sentencing.