Local News

Victim's Family Makes High-Tech Push for Fetal Homicide Law

Posted February 13, 2008 7:42 p.m. EST
Updated February 13, 2008 8:40 p.m. EST

— A movement to enact a fetal homicide law in North Carolina is gaining attention as one murder victim's family starts a high-tech push for change.

Senate Bill 295 and House Bill 263 are two fetal homicide bills that have stalled in committees in the General Assembly but could get new life when the Legislature reconvenes in May.

Sixty-four lawmakers support giving prosecutors the option to charge someone with two counts of murder for killing a pregnant woman.

As it stands now, North Carolina is one of 15 states without a fetal homicide law.

"For people to tell me he doesn't matter, and that he's not a viable human being – that's absurd," said Kevin Blaine, whose daughter Jenna Nielsen was stabbed to death outside the AmeriKing convenience store in Raleigh on June 14.

Blaine is talking about his unborn grandson, whom the family called Ethen. Nielsen, 22, was eight months pregnant when she died.

To get support for action, Blaine and the Nielsen family have put information about the legislation on their Web site. Visitors can add their names to an online petition and send their concerns via e-mail to state leaders.

"What we're worried about is protecting women and punishing murderers and thugs who kill pregnant women," said Rep. Dale Folwell, R-Forsyth, who supports House Bill 263.

Various versions of the bill have failed to pass the General Assembly for the past decade. The most recent version includes language that would protect abortion rights in the state.

Those who oppose the bill are worried it will erode those rights anyway, however.

The North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence, for example, says the state already has a law that increases penalties for injuring a pregnant woman. (Read more about why the coalition opposes fetal murder legislation.)

Another concern for the group is whether the legislation could hold an expectant mother who is a victim of domestic violence responsible for the death of her child because she did not protect it.

Other opponents are concerned that an assailant might not know the victim is pregnant.

Blaine dismisses those concerns and hopes lawmakers will also.

"To me, this is a common-sense issue," he said. "My daughter was pregnant. She was murdered. My grandson died with her."

Police have not named a suspect in Nielsen's slaying, but they have released a composite sketch of a man wanted for questioning.

The person of interest, according to Raleigh police, is a man believed to be in his late teens or early 20s, standing about 5 feet, 3 inches tall and weighing about 120 pounds. He had black hair pulled into a ponytail and wore a dark-colored sleeveless shirt and baggy denim shorts. Police believe he might be Hispanic.

Anyone with information about the case is asked to call the Raleigh Police Department's tip line at 919-227-6220 or the "America's Most Wanted" tip line at 800-CRIME-TV.

Nielsen's family is offering a $15,000 reward for information leading to a conviction in the case.