Local News

Pregnant Mom's Slaying Could Help Change Fetal Homicide Law

Posted June 29, 2007 11:51 p.m. EDT
Updated June 30, 2007 9:37 a.m. EDT

— Attention surrounding the murder of a Fuquay-Varina woman who was eight-months pregnant could help push through two bills currently stalled in legislative committees, a Wake County lawmaker said Friday.

“Generally, the only way we get things like this heard is public outcry,” Sen. Neal Hunt, R-Wake, said. “So, if the public gets incensed enough and lets the legislators know, that’s about the only way we’ll get this heard.”

North Carolina is one of 14 states that do not recognize the death of an unborn child in a homicide.

Although prosecutors cannot seek two murder charges in the June 14 slaying of Jenna Nielsen, the pregnancy could serve as an aggravating circumstance and allow prosecutors to seek the death penalty.

But for the family of Nielsen -- a 22-year-old pregnant with her third child when she was found dead behind a Raleigh convenience store -- that's not enough.

“We consider this, and the world considers this, as the murder of two human beings,” Nielsen's father, Kevin Blaine, said Friday during a news conference in which he announce a $10,000 reward for information that leads to the conviction of her killer.

“We want to do everything in our power to change this. There’s no reason why an unborn child should not be recognized in the case of a homicide.”

Senate Bill 295 and House Bill 263, if passed, would change the law .

“It’s just a particularly horrible crime to murder a woman who is so obviously expecting a child,” Hunt said.

Rep. Trudi Walend, R-Henderson, who is the lead sponsor of House Bill 263 said one of the reason the bills have stalled is because of the abortion issue.

"The Nielsen child was certainly old enough to be viable," Walend said. "That is a person, and North Carolina needs to recognize it as a person."

But the veteran lawmaker noted that politics will likely prevent changes any time soon. A bill she filed this year was assigned to a judiciary committee, but it never got a hearing.

Walend said she is still pushing to get the General Assembly to study the issue before the end of the session later this summer.

"Things change and people change, so we'll keep working on it," Walend said.

Nielsen's family has vowed to do all they can to change the law.

"That is our biggest goal right now, other than trying to catch the people or persons responsible for what happened,” Nielsen's husband, Tim, said Friday.

"It needs to be changed, and it needs to be changed as soon as possible."