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Woman says she still loves man who gave her abortion pill

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Published:   |   Updated: May 17, 2013 at 11:44 AM
TAMPA -

A week after she lost her baby, Remee Jo Lee told a judge she still loved the man she said tricked her into taking an abortion pill.

“My whole life has been a nightmare,” Lee said during an emotional April 9 hearing in which she was seeking a restraining order against John Andrew Welden. “Everything’s been turned upside down and I do still miss him. That’s the worst part. He’s my best friend and everything to me and he’s not there and I hate it. It’s just horrible.”

Welden was arrested Wednesday and could face life in prison after being indicted for murder under a rarely used federal statute known as the “Unborn Victims of Violence Act.” He also is charged with tampering with a prescription “under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference” to the risk of death or injury.

A federal magistrate has ordered him held without bail.

Lee’s lawyer, Gil Sanchez, on Wednesday brought a civil lawsuit against Welden alleging battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

A federal prosecutor has said Welden, whose father is a practicing OB/GYN doctor, forged a prescription for cytotec, described as an abortion drug, and then disguised the medication to look like a prescription for amoxicillin, a common antibiotic, for Lee.

According to the prosecution, Lee, who didn’t have insurance, went to Welden’s father, Dr. Stephen Welden, for a sonogram. John Welden later told Lee his father had diagnosed her with an infection, and he gave her the abortion pills and told her to take them, authorities say.

Appearing in court a week after she lost the baby and more than a month before John Welden was indicted, Lee sounded consumed by grief, hurt and fear. She mourned the loss of her baby and the life she’d imagined with the child, as well as the end of her relationship with Welden.

Lee testified during the April 9 hearing that Welden “made it perfectly it clear to me numerous times he didn’t want the child. I do have text messages of him apologizing to me about doing this and ruining my life.”

Sanchez on Thursday issued a statement saying the couple were romantically involved between July 2012 and March 2013. Lee first learned of her pregnancy in February. John Welden “held himself out to Lee as being a medical doctor,” the statement says.

According to a recording of the injunction hearing, during which Lee did not have a lawyer, Lee testified that she had a sonogram March 28, and Welden gave her the pills the next day, which was Good Friday.

She said she went to work the late shift. “I started getting intense cramping,” she said. “They sent me home around 7, 7:30. I couldn’t work anymore. I started bleeding and I got – I just knew there was something wrong after I ate that medicine.”

She said Welden came to her house the following day.

He “bought me some soup and comforted me,” she said. “And I cried, and he told me that the baby was probably going to be OK, that it was probably fine, that if it wasn’t more than a period’s worth of blood, I probably shouldn’t worry about it.

Welden, she said, also tried to get the pills from her.

“I had them put away because I did go to a pharmacist and he said that they were not amoxicillin,” she said.

She said she went to the hospital the next day, Easter Sunday.

“I was bleeding heavily,” she said. “My vision was going out. I tried to contact (John Welden) all night and he wouldn’t have anything to do with me. I wanted to go see my doctor, which is Dr. Welden, but he wouldn’t let that happen.

“I went to the emergency room and there they told me the baby was not going to make it. Its heartbeat had stopped.”

On April 1, Lee filed a domestic violence petition with Hillsborough Circuit Court saying Welden “took measures to kill/abort/murder my unborn child, potentially killing me by switching my medicine. And now that he is facing investigation, he will continue to cause me more emotional and physical harm.”

Hours after she filed the petition, Lee sent Welden two text messages, she said under questioning by Welden’s lawyer, David Weisbrod.

One was a quote from Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk: “When another person makes you suffer it is because he suffers deeply within himself and his suffering is spilling over. He does not need punishment. He needs help.”

Asked by Weisbrod if she sent the text, Lee said, “I shouldn’t have done that.”

Weisbrod said she sent another text: “It sucks. I really miss you even though I shouldn’t.”

“This has been a terrible, harrowing experience,” she said during the hearing. “And I do miss him and I do love him and this is - I don’t know how, I don’t know how I still feel these things. This is not what I wanted. None of this is what I wanted. All I wanted was the child. I never thought he’d be capable to do something like this to me.”

Weisbrod elicited from Lee that she had met Welden when she was working as a dancer.

Weisbrod also asked if Lee had previously had an abortion. Lee initially resisted answering the question, saying it had nothing to do with what had happened. Judge Lawrence Lefler agreed and told Lee not to answer.

But toward the end of the hearing, Lee volunteered the information about her past.

“There are no words to the devastation that this has caused me,” she said. “Yes, I did have an abortion back years ago.”

The judge interjected, “That’s not relevant, ma’am. The only thing that’s relevant right here right now is the allegation that’s been made. Whether or not you had an abortion in the past, what you do for a living doesn’t matter.”

“None of that matters,” Lee agreed. “What matters is I wanted, the only thing that mattered to me was the child. That’s the only thing that mattered. I didn’t even care if he was around or not. I have specific messages where I told him, please, leave me alone. Don’t harm me or the child. Just leave us alone. That’s all I wanted. I wanted this baby.

“You can ask any of my co-workers, my family, everybody. I was beyond joy for this baby. It was everything. It was a chance to turn all of that crap around and not ever be that person, and watch cartoons and play with toys and be happy for once.

“And he took all of that away from me. I don’t know why he did this. I don’t know why he hates me so much. I don’t know why this was so bad to have this baby with me. I don’t know what’s wrong with me that we just couldn’t be happy.”

She said she was afraid John Welden might kill her or hire someone to kill her because there was a criminal investigation underway and she was a witness.

Still, Lee said, she didn’t hate Welden.

“I still don’t want anything bad to happen to him. This isn’t what I wanted. I wanted to be going to doctor’s appointments. I wanted to have a baby shower. I wanted to see what the baby looked like. I wanted to see all of it. I wanted to see both of us and the baby.”

Lefler ultimately denied her petition for a restraining order, saying Weisbrod had raised a legitimate question of evidence proving that the pills Welden gave to Lee caused the loss of the baby.

Still, the judge noted he had heard thousands of domestic violence petitions, and found Lee’s story shocking.

“By far,” he said, “without hesitation this is the most egregious case, assuming what you’re saying is true, I’ve ever heard.”


esilvestrini@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7837

Twitter:@ElaineTBO

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