CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Police charged a Charleston man with murder late Tuesday after he allegedly punched his girlfriend in the stomach so hard that it killed her unborn baby.
According to a criminal complaint on file in Kanawha Magistrate Court, Timothy Paul Burdette, 25, of Piccadilly Street in Charleston, had been smoking crack cocaine on June 20 and asked his girlfriend for $10 to buy more. When the woman refused, the two got into a scuffle and Burdette kept trying to grab her purse.
When she would not give up the purse, Burdette allegedly punched her in the stomach. Burdette fled when the woman threatened to call police, the criminal complaint says.
The woman, who was three months pregnant, told Charleston police who responded to the scene that she wasn't feeling well, and police called an ambulance, the complaint says. Staff at Women and Children's Hospital originally found a heartbeat from the fetus, but the baby died the next day.
Police charged Burdette with first-degree murder under the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, which makes it a crime to kill an unborn child through violence. Kanawha County prosecutor Mark Plants said it is only the second time the statute has been used in Kanawha County, and the first time it has been applied to so young a victim.
In November 2008, Kelly Juwon Chapman, 16, shot Natasha Folden, 19, in the stomach outside an East End convenience store, killing Folden's unborn child. Chapman was tried as an adult, and pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the shooting. He was sentenced to life in prison.
Folden was seven months pregnant at the time of the shooting, Plants said.
Burdette is being held without bond in South Central Regional Jail. He was allegedly the unborn child's father.
Plants said that under the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, unborn children are treated just like any other victim of violence. In order to convict Burdette of first-degree murder, prosecutors must prove he intended to hurt the baby when he punched his girlfriend in the stomach.
Prosecutors may also pursue first-degree murder charges under the state's felony murder law, which says someone can be charged with first-degree murder if a person is killed during the commission of a felony, such as a robbery.
Reach Rusty Marks at rustyma...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1215.