Mother involved in Norfolk, NE illegal abortion case appeared in court Friday

Jessica Burgess, the mother of a teen who allegedly illegally aborted and disposed of a body,...
Jessica Burgess, the mother of a teen who allegedly illegally aborted and disposed of a body, appeared in court on Friday, Sept. 2.(WOWT)
Published: Sep. 2, 2022 at 5:42 PM CDT
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MADISON, Neb. (WOWT) - The final suspect in a bizarre abortion case in northeast Nebraska appeared in court Friday.

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 in addition I believe the state has filed calling for a 104 hearing,” said Defense Attorney Brad Ewald.

The hearing dealt 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. 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,” said Prosecutor Matthew Kiernan.

Kiernan told judge Mark A. Johnson the DVDs contain police officers’ 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 daughter Celeste both live.

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

One of Jessica’s messages said, ”It came today,” and, ”What I ordered last month.”

Celeste answered back saying, ”Remember we burn the evidence...Once everything is out.”

Jessica replied, “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 Burgess showed investigators where the body was buried.

Judge Johnson granted the defense a continuance to view the DVDs and file any countermotions.

Meanwhile, Jessica Burgess remains out on bond. She had nothing to say while leaving the courthouse.

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

Jessica Burgess is due back in court on Oct. 6 for the motions discussed in court Friday. Her pre-trial court date is November 4 and should the case go to a jury, that trial is set for December 12.