Man accused of tricking pregnant girlfriend into taking abortion pill
John Andrew Welden did not want to be a father, authorities say.
So when his girlfriend got pregnant, prosecutors say, Welden faked a prescription for an abortion pill, switched a label so the medication appeared to be a common antibiotic, and gave her the drug.
The drug did its job. The unborn baby died.
“In my years as a prosecutor, this case is one of the most shocking and premeditated cases I’ve seen,” Assistant U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow told U.S. Magistrate Anthony Porcelli during a hearing Wednesday.
Now Welden, 28, is facing the possibility of life behind bars without parole, charged with murder under a rarely used federal statute known as the “Protection of Unborn Children Act.” He also is charged with tampering with a prescription “under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference” to the risk of death or injury.
Muldrow said Welden was involved in a relationship with the woman, who told him in March that she was pregnant.
Muldrow said Weldon wanted her to have an abortion, but the woman told him she would raise the child without his help and without any expectations from him.
The woman didn’t have medical insurance so Welden arranged for her to see his father, Stephen Welden, a practicing OB/GYN doctor. On March 28, the woman had a sonogram and learned her unborn baby was viable and healthy, Muldrow said.
“In a cold, premeditated fashion,” Muldrow said, Welden forged his father’s signature to obtain a prescription for the abortion drug Misoprostol, also known as Cytotec. On March 29, Welden obtained the drug from a local pharmacy and removed the label, replacing it with one that said Amoxicillin, a common antibiotic, and the woman’s name.
Weldon then altered the pills so they would not be identifiable and told the woman that his father told him she had a bacterial infection, Muldrow said.
The next morning, the woman took the pill before going to work. She began having abdominal pains and began bleeding.
She went to the hospital, Muldrow said. “The baby was lost.”
Later, with Hillsborough County Sheriff’s investigators recording, the woman called Welden and said, “What did you give me, Andrew?”
“Cytotec,” Welden said, according to Muldrow.
“He admits throughout the recoding that he knew the pills were going to cause contractions,” Muldrow said. He also “confesses to the premeditated nature of the crime.”
Muldrow said Welden “confesses that he had tampered with the pill bottle, that he put a fake label on the bottle.” Muldrow said Welden said he used a label maker to make the bogus label.
Muldrow said Welden at some point tried to retrieve the bottle, claiming there was a problem with the medicine and he wanted to get his money back. Muldrow said this was an attempt by Welden to tamper with evidence.
Sheriff’s investigators later interviewed Welden, who described in detail what he did, Muldrow said.
“Quite frankly, your honor, this case shocks the conscience,” Muldrow told Porcelli. “This was a senseless crime. He had no reason to kill the baby – his baby. She had a name for the baby… This case is solid. The crime is heinous.”
Defense attorney David Weisbrod told the judge Welden has strong ties to the community and no criminal background.
The defendant’s father and stepmother were in court to support him but did not want to speak to reporters.
“This is an unusual event, obviously,” Weisbrod told Porcelli. “It is by all appearances an aberrant act in this defendant’s past, if the government is able to prove its case.”
The defense lawyer said Welden’s parents were prepared to post their house in Lutz as collateral to secure Welden’s release. Weisbrod also suggested Welden be released and placed on electronic monitoring while the case is pending.
Muldrow said Welden admitted to the court’s pretrial services that he had used marijuana daily since he was 15 or 16. The prosecutor said the Weldens own five properties in Hillsborough County and have the means to help him flee if he is released.
Porcelli ordered Welden held without bail. “The nature of the offense is, as Mr. Muldrow described, shocking and horrific,” he said.