A grand jury handed up an indictment this week under North Carolina’s Unborn Victims of Violence Act, or Ethen’s Law. The law went into effect on Dec. 1, 2011, and the indictment marks the first application of the new statute. The defendant, a 22-year-old man, is accused of murdering a coworker who was two months pregnant.
The official charges are murder, murder of an unborn child, robbery with a dangerous weapon and felonious larceny. The nature of the crime and the defendant’s criminal record — he served time for robbery and breaking and entering — may result in the prosecutor seeking the death penalty.
According to court documents, the defendant allegedly stabbed the 25-year-old victim during an argument inside the café where both worked. He returned to the apartment he shared with his sister, mother and another man, where he told his sister he had killed the young woman.
The victim’s boyfriend called 911 and told the dispatcher that he believed the café was being robbed. Six hours passed before police found the victim’s body. The dispatcher had written down the wrong address.
New procedures are in place for dispatchers now. They are required to confirm the address with the caller before hanging up.
One of the most controversial provisions of the new law pertains to knowledge of the pregnancy. Before Dec. 1, if an assailant knew the victim was pregnant, and the assault resulted in a miscarriage or stillbirth, police would charge the assailant with a felony one level higher than the underlying crime.
Under the new law, neither the assailant nor the victim needs to know about the pregnancy. If the fetus dies as a result of the crime, the assailant faces a first- or second-degree murder charge. First-degree murder of an unborn child is a class A felony, but the death penalty is not an option. The mandatory sentence is life in prison without possibility of parole.
Reports do not indicate if the victim in this case knew she was pregnant.
Source: Charlotte Observer, “Cox indicted in Flying Biscuit death,” Gary L. Wright, Jan. 31, 2012