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Crime & Courts

Man accused in abortion pill case agrees to plea deal

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Published:   |   Updated: September 6, 2013 at 07:08 PM

TAMPA — John Andrew Welden will admit on Monday that he tricked his pregnant girlfriend into taking a drug that he hoped would cause her to miscarry, according to a signed plea agreement filed in U.S. District Court on Friday.

Welden, 28, plans to plead guilty to tampering with a consumer product and conspiracy to commit mail fraud under the terms of an agreement in which both sides are recommending a sentence of 13 years and six months in federal prison. Welden could have faced a mandatory life sentence without parole if he had been convicted of murder under the “Unborn Victims of Violence Act,” a charge that was brought when he was first arrested in May.

Welden admits in his plea agreement that he forged a prescription from his father, Stephen Welden, a practicing OB/GYN physician. Then, authorities say, John Welden changed the label to make the drug, Cytotec, appear to be the common antibiotic amoxicillin.

Welden is accused of giving the drug to Remee Jo Lee, telling her his father had said she had an infection and instructing her to take it. Lee, who was about six or seven weeks pregnant, lost the baby within a couple of days.

Although Welden's defense has disputed that the drug could have caused the miscarriage, he acknowledges in the plea agreement that was his intent.

The plea agreement also gives new details of how Welden managed to switch the labels by enlisting an employee at the Sunlake Pharmacy in Lutz. The pharmacy was closed late Friday and no one returned a message seeking comment.

According to the plea agreement, Welden asked the unnamed pharmacy employee, described as a co-conspirator, to order Cytotec to fill the forged prescription in his own name. Welden discussed with the employee obtaining a prescription label in Lee's name and a pill bottle, even though Lee was not a pharmacy customer.

The plea agreement says the pharmacy employee knew Welden would be putting medication into the pill bottle and prepared the fraudulent label at the time he or she was filling the Cytotec prescription for Welden.

The pharmacy employee prepared the label with the pharmacy name on it, Lee's name and address and the instructions, “Take 3 tablets sublingually three times daily for three days,” according to Welden's plea agreement.

Welden picked up the Cytotec prescription, along with prenatal and other vitamins the morning of March 29, according to the plea agreement, which says Welden scratched identifying markings off the pills. Welden then put the fraudulent label on the empty pill bottle and put the altered Cytotec pills inside. He also affixed a second label to the bottle reading, “Amoxicillin: 125mg oral tablets.”

Welden told Lee his father said she had an infection and he was bringing her antibiotics.

Lee took one of the pills.

She showed her co-workers a sonogram taken by Welden's father during a visit Welden had arranged. She told her colleagues how excited she was to have the baby. But within less than two hours, she began feeling severe pain and cramps and had to leave work, the plea agreement states.

The next morning, Lee was still in pain and bleeding heavily. Suspecting the pills weren't what she had been told, she visited another pharmacy and confirmed that the pills were not amoxicillin. She called Welden, who went to her house, brought her soup and feigned support.

Welden told Lee he wanted to take the pills to get his money back, but Lee wouldn't give them to him.

On Sunday, March 31, Lee went to Tampa General Hospital and learned the unborn baby was dead.

esilvestrini@tampatrib.com

813-259-7837

Twitter: @ElaineTBO

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