Chesterfield woman charged after fetal remains found buried - NBC12 - WWBT - Richmond, VA News On Your Side

Chesterfield woman charged after fetal remains found buried

Michelle F. Roberts (Source: Chesterfield Police) Michelle F. Roberts (Source: Chesterfield Police)
CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) -

A Chesterfield woman faces a felony charge of producing an abortion or miscarriage after fetal remains were discovered buried in a backyard of a residence on Philbrook Road.

In February 2016, police discovered the human skeletal remains buried in the yard after a tip from a family member, court records state. Police say the woman who lived there, Michelle F. Roberts, said the remains "were in fact buried in the backyard of the residence."

According to court documents, back in July 2015, then 41-year-old Roberts told the mother of her longtime boyfriend that she was five months pregnant and she was due around October. However, a few weeks later, Roberts was no longer pregnant.

Court records also show later in the year, Roberts admitted to her boyfriend's mother that a baby had been born in the house, but "the baby took one breath," and Roberts passed out shortly after giving birth. When she woke up, her adult daughter told her the baby had died and she put it in a box and buried in the backyard, according to court records.

Roberts boyfriend was incarcerated during the pregnancy, but court records say he wrote family members telling them he was excited about the baby, and didn’t know the child had died.

Robert's daughter says police have it wrong. She says she helped her mother deliver the baby, who was stillborn. She says it was her mother who buried the child in the backyard, not in an attempt to hide or dispose of the body, but rather to pay tribute to the baby boy. She says her mother didn't realize doing so was illegal.

Neighbor Ora Jean Shields says in all the 32 years she's lived on Philbrook Road, she's never seen anything like what happened last year.

"I saw a lot of cops parked in the street, and also the cars in the street. The people were in the house cross the road, and mostly they were down by the back at the fence," said Shields. "It's heartbreaking to know that that really happened."

After consulting with the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and a forensic anthropologist, the case was taken to a grand jury in March. That grand jury handed up the charge of producing abortion or miscarriage, which is a class 4 felony.

Roberts is due in court April 24. If convicted, she faces up to 10 years in prison.

Gail Deady, ACLU of Virginia’s The Secular Society Women’s Rights Legal Fellow, released the following statement:

No woman should fear arrest or jail for ending her own pregnancy or for pregnancy loss. The particular law implicated in this case does not apply to a pregnant woman — it applies to third parties only.

It is unclear from the questionable, selective release of information by the Chesterfield police exactly what happened here, but it appears that this is another example of overreach and targeting of a pregnant woman in an attempt to shame and punish her for her circumstances.

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