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Bill would classify violent deaths of unborn as homicides

January 01, 2004|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

A Maryland legislator said he plans to introduce a bill during the upcoming General Assembly session that would classify violent deaths of unborn victims as homicides, and he said Wednesday his proposal would cover a scenario in which a woman lives and her unborn child dies.

The Washington County Sheriff's Department was investigating a report that a 19-year-old woman who was five months pregnant with twins was robbed at knifepoint and assaulted by two men Dec. 13 at about 7:30 p.m.

The Mont Alto, Pa., woman told investigators she was walking behind an auto glass shop at 13236 Pennsylvania Ave. when she was attacked.

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She was taken that night to Washington County Hospital where doctors were unable to find a heartbeat for the twins, Sheriff's Cpl. Roy Harsh said earlier this week. The woman was taken to Hershey (Pa.) Medical Center, where the twins were declared dead Dec. 17.

"This bill is not about the abortion debate," said Del. William J. Frank, R-Baltimore County, by phone Wednesday. "We're trying to focus on preventing violence against women ... and their unborn children.

Frank said he began working on the bill earlier this year as a result of the Laci Peterson murder investigation in Modesto, Calif.

Peterson, 27, was eight months pregnant when she was reported missing Dec. 24, 2002. Her body was found in April.

Peterson's husband, Scott Peterson, 31, has pleaded innocent to two counts of murder in the deaths of his wife and her unborn child.

Frank said, "It was brought to my attention that in Maryland, that tragedy would be treated as a single homicide. ... There was real need to change the statute in Maryland."

Frank's bill would not apply to legal abortions or deaths as a result of customary medical procedures, according to a copy of the bill he provided.

The bill would modify the existing law that covers murder, assault, manslaughter and other life-threatening circumstances by inserting language that includes unborn children. Frank said the bill would cover the child from the beginning of a pregnancy.

Sgt. Mark Knight, the Sheriff's Department criminal investigations division commander, said Wednesday that progress in the investigation has been stymied by lack of evidence.

"We have no new leads or no new information to point us in any other direction at this point, as far as investigative leads, and that's what we need," Knight said.

Knight said Harsh was the only investigator on the case, although that could change if more information becomes available.

Knight said the hope is that people will come forward with more information. Deputies have been unable to find any witnesses to the assault.

The Sheriff's Department has asked that anyone with information about the incident call Harsh at 240-313-2183.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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