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Wednesday, Aug 20, 2014
Crime & Courts

Prosecutors: Man tried to hide pregnancy from other girlfriend


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TAMPA - A man accused of tricking his pregnant girlfriend into taking an abortion pill was trying to hide the pregnancy from his other girlfriend, according to a prosecution court filing.

James Welden is being held without bail and is facing mandatory life without parole if convicted of a form of murder under a federal law called the Unborn Victims of Violence Act. He is also charged with product tampering because authorities say he switched the label for the drug Cytotec to make it appear to be a common antibiotic before giving it to his pregnant girlfriend.

The prosecution disclosed in a 44-page court filing Tuesday that Welden, 28, also is now under investigation for witness tampering and mail fraud.

The filing, a response to a defense motion to allow Welden's release on bail, contains new details about the investigation, including text messages between Welden and his once-pregnant girlfriend, Remee Jo Lee, and transcripts of recorded jail conversations in which Welden discusses efforts to keep his other girlfriend, Tara Fillinger, from talking to the FBI.

A judge is scheduled to hear arguments on the bail motion on Thursday.

Fillinger filed an affidavit to support Welden's bail motion, saying she has known Welden for seven years and has been his girlfriend for most of that time. Before he was arrested, she says in the affidavit, they were discussing marriage and looking for a home.

Welden's relationship with Lee began in July 2012, according to the prosecution filing. He learned of the pregnancy in mid-March.

Welden's "desire to prevent Tara from learning of the pregnancy and his relationship with Lee provides a significant and strong motive for the defendant's criminal actions in this case," according to the prosecution court pleading.

On March 23, Lee sent Welden a text message about the unborn baby: "I thought of a nice name for whatever it is. Memphis Remington Welden. Kids gonna be a bad ass!"

Welden responded: "Oh God I want to die ... Are you serious Remee please don't do this I beg you"

"Don't do what?" she texted back. "Take responsibility for my actions? This isn't about us anymore. It is not it's fault, why should it have to die? You must not be who I thought you were if you are asking me to murder our child."

"I can't I hate myself now," he responded. "Fine I can't do this I am destroyed."

After the baby was lost, Lee spoke to Welden in a conversation that was recorded by Hillsborough sheriff's detectives. In the conversation, Welden told Lee that Fillinger had found out about Lee's pregnancy and was "furious," according to the prosecution filing. Investigators determined that Fillinger had seen prenatal vitamins and a pregnancy test in Welden's car, and that Welden made up a story about his sister being pregnant and not wanting their stepmother to know.

In the recorded conversation, Lee tells Welden she didn't want to force a relationship on him. "If you wanted to go be with Tara, that's fine," she says, according to a transcript excerpted in the prosecution pleading. "Go be with Tara. I woulda had my kid and I woulda been fine with that ... I woulda told my parents it was someone else's. I wouldn't have bothered you for money. I wouldn't have bothered you at all."

"I didn't want to be that guy" who doesn't care, Welden responds.

"So you're going to be the guy that goes and just kills the baby without even letting me know?" Lee said. "To save your own precious hide? Right?"

"I guess," Welden said. "If I saved anything I didn't really save anything."

Welden also laments that his "life is over," and says, "I just wanna kill myself."

He admits giving her Cytotec and that he scratched identifying marks off the pills. "I'm just a horrible person, Remee," he says. "I'm sorry I ruined everything."

After he was arrested and learned that Lee had filed a civil lawsuit against him, Welden changed, according to the court pleading. He began talking with his friends and family about smearing Lee's reputation and telling Fillinger she didn't have to talk to the FBI, according to the government court pleading.

Referring to Lee, he says in a recorded phone conversation from the jail that she "is trying to ruin everything. I'm ready to take her on definitely, head to head, whatever. If we have to do press conferences, whatever. I'm ready."

In another conversation, his stepmother, Lenora Welden, assures him Lee "won't get away with this ... . If I have to go on TV myself, honey. She will not get away with this ... . They're going to find out what she is."

In another conversation, his stepmother was recorded discussing the possibility that they make it look like he had sold his car to his brother to prevent Lee from getting it in the litigation.

esilvestrini@tampatrib.com

813-259-7837

Twitter: @ElaineTBO

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