(TAMPA, Fla.) — A Florida man awaits sentencing after he admitted in court that he secretly gave his pregnant girlfriend a pill that caused her to abort, convincing her she was taking antibiotics to cure an infection.
On Monday, John Andrew Welden, 28, pleaded guilty in Tampa to federal charges of product tampering and mail fraud in the case, which resulted in the loss of Remee Jo Lee’s unborn child. Weldon faces up to 15 years in prison and three years of supervised release when he is sentenced on Dec. 5.
“She is going through depression and is being treated, but she is trying to move on,” said Lee’s lawyer, Monica Sanchez of Gil Sanchez of Valencia Sanchez Attorneys at Large.
Lee appeared in court Monday to hear Welden’s guilty plea, Sanchez said.
“Nothing in the world, even if he was sentenced to life in prison, will bring her baby back,” Sanchez said.
Welden could have faced a mandatory life sentence without parole if he had been convicted of the first-degree murder charge that was originally brought when he was first arrested in May. Prosecutors dropped the murder count and added the mail fraud charge as part of the plea agreement.
Welden’s attorney, Tom Foster of Tampa, told ABC News, “Mr. Weldon has pled guilty and accepted responsibility for what he did, providing the pills.”
Welden agreed to plead guilty in exchange for the dismissal of the first-degree murder charge and lesser charges, Foster said.
The plea agreement states on March 29, 2013, Welden, 28, tampered with the drug Misoprostol (brand name Cytotec) by scratching the pills’ original identifying marks off. Additionally, Welden also placed labels with the name of his girlfriend and the name of a different medicine on the container of the product. The drug’s original instructions remained: Take 3 tablets sublingually three times daily for three days.
Warnings on the Misoprostol’s label say, “administration to women can cause birth defects, abortion, or premature birth.” The drug maker advises, “Misoprostol may endanger pregnancy (may cause abortion) and thereby cause harm to the fetus when administered to a pregnant woman.”
Text messages from the couple introduced in court indicate Lee had wanted to keep the unborn baby. Welden did not.
Welden, along with an unidentified co-conspirator, worked to convince Lee that she was sick and in fact, had to take medicine prescribed by his father, OB-GYN Dr. Stephen Welden.
Dr. Welden had seen Lee for her initial OB-GYN appointment and Lee saw a sonogram, the first and last image of her fetus. The younger Welden, who admitted in court that he forged a prescription using his father’s pad, convinced Lee that his father prescribed the medications for an infection. Lee believed she was taking amoxicillin, according to court documents.
Lee, who was about six to seven weeks pregnant at the time, experienced severe pain and cramps after taking one of the Cytotec pills. She subsequently miscarried.
In a recorded interview with detectives, Andrew Welden admitted to tampering with the Cytotec pills and knowingly giving them to Lee to kill the “unborn child,” according to court documents.
Andrew is free on supervised release until the sentence hearing. U.S. District Judge Richard A. Lazzara issued a revised order on Andrew’s conditions of release, allowing Andrew to receive court-approved visitors. He lives at home with his mother and father.
In the meantime, Lee’s lawyer says Lee is writing a book about her experience. She is supporting the passage of Florida’s Protection of Unborn Child Act, which makes it a separate criminal offense for anyone who hurts an unborn child at any stage of pregnancy.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Andreas Preuss and Joe Sutton, CNN
Kelsey Schwab, Deseret News