According to court documents, Norfolk police began investigating Celeste Burgess and her mother, Jessica Burgess, in late April following concerns that Celeste gave birth prematurely to a stillborn fetus. After the two were initially charged, law enforcement continued to investigate and obtained Facebook messages between Celeste and Jessica that appear to have burned abortion pills and “evidence,” according to a transcript of the conversation — which is now being used. The case is in court filings. After the fetus’s body was exhumed, police say it showed “thermal injuries” indicating it may have been burned after conception, court documents show.
Celeste, who was 17 at the time of the alleged incident, initially told investigators that she had unexpectedly aborted the stillborn fetus and that she and her mother later buried the fetus, according to an affidavit in support of a search warrant. When interviewed by a police detective, she “scrolled through her messages on her Facebook Messenger account” in an attempt to reveal the date of the miscarriage, police said, leading them to believe and search for more messages with details about the case. A search warrant, according to court documents.
The public defender’s office representing Celeste Burgess, who is being tried as an adult, declined to comment. Bradley Ewald, an attorney representing Jessica Burgess, declined to comment.
According to court documents obtained by CNN Business, in an affidavit filed by McBride, the detective investigating Burgess, seeking approval of a search warrant for Facebook, he said he was seeking evidence related to “prohibited activities with skeletal remains.”
After the initial request to Facebook, prosecutors filed an additional search warrant on June 16 that sought evidence of Internet searches or purchases of drugs used to induce abortions. Thirteen technological devices belonging to Burgess were also seized in response to that warrant, according to court documents.
The case was previously reported by the Lincoln Journal Star, Forbes and Vice.
Nebraska currently bans abortions after 20 weeks, a practice that has been in place since before Roe v. Wade was overturned. Celeste Burgess’ pregnancy ended when she was about 28 weeks pregnant, court documents allege.
Although Burgess was charged before Roe v. Wade was overturned — the protection does not apply to women’s actions following the end of a pregnancy — the case demonstrates how social media can be used to process private information, such as direct messages. Laws prohibiting abortion. In 2018, a Mississippi woman was indicted by a grand jury for second-degree murder after she lost a pregnancy at her home, and the charges were eventually dropped after law enforcement pointed to Internet search results such as “buy abortion pills.”
Norfolk Police Department Capt. Michael Bauer told CNN Business in an email that officers and detectives are not allowed to comment on cases outside of court.
In many cases, technology platforms have no choice but to respond to legal requests for information. Tech companies have widely said they will comply with government data requests as long as they are consistent with existing laws. Now, with many states passing new legislation restricting abortion and rolling back federal abortion protections, it may be difficult for sites to fight some data requests related to abortion investigations.
In June, Meta responded to questions about law enforcement requests for data by directing CNN Business to its Transparency Center, and said the company must comply with government requests law and the company’s own data policies. “If we determine that a government request is inconsistent with applicable law or our policies, we will withdraw and engage the government agency to address the apparent deficiencies. If the request is unlawful (for example, overbroad or otherwise legally deficient), we will challenge or deny the request,” the agency said. says
–CNN’s Brian Fung contributed reporting.
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