A ghost in a murder story

143036 pregnant profileIt is, sadly, the kind of story that you see in the newspaper regularly if you live in a big city, especially one in the urban Northeast. Here is the top of yet another murder story in the Baltimore Sun, which ran with the headline "Man sought in shooting of woman surrenders -- Victim was 7 months' pregnant with his child":

A man sought by police for killing his pregnant girlfriend and wounding another woman as they sat in a car on a Hillendale area shopping center parking lot Monday morning surrendered last night, police said.

Police said David Lee Miller, 24, of the 1200 block of Halstead Road in Hillendale surrendered to police at the Towson precinct and was immediately taken to police headquarters, where he was interviewed by detectives.

From headquarters, Miller was taken before a District Court commissioner in Towson and was denied bail. He was then remanded to the county Detention Center, police said. Miller is accused of killing Elizabeth Walters, police said.

Walters did not let her pregnancy slow her down while waiting tables at a popular Baltimore pub, friends say. She kept child-rearing books behind the bar and was looking forward to her baby shower next week.

Now I realize that some GetReligion readers are going to want to know where the religion is in this story and, I must admit, that the connection is not a tight one. However, I think we have established that conflicts over issues linked to the sanctity of human life are at the heart of many, many clashes between mainstream journalists and their critics in church pews.

So what is the key detail in this story? It's right there in the headline. This mother to be was seven months pregnant at the time of this shooting. The father of her unborn child has been accused of killing her.

Her. Singular.

I read deeper and deeper into the story, expecting that -- any paragraph now -- the Sun was going to tell me the other key fact that I urgently wanted to know.

What happened to the baby? The 24-year-old mother to be was seven months into this pregnancy. What happened to the baby? Did the gunman shoot the child, too? Or did the mother die at the scene, before emergency crew workers could save the child?

We never find out, although it is implied. I think it is a safe assumption that many readers would want to know this poignant and highly relevant detail. And then there is this question: Could the gunman be charged with the murder of his own child?

Later, we are told this:

Walters was eagerly anticipating the birth of her child, a girl, in August. She had chosen a name months ago and she talked about her baby constantly, friends said.

"She was taking very good care of herself and the baby," her mother said.

Walters always seemed to have her nose in a book, and she particularly liked science fiction and fantasy, friends said.

... Some of the books that she had recently been reading, including Understanding Children, were still behind the bar at the pub.

fn 57 thumbMeanwhile, another local newspaper, The Examiner, managed to put the basic facts right in the lede:

Police said the married man wanted in the shooting of his girlfriend at a Parkville shopping center -- killing her and their unborn child -- surrendered to authorities Tuesday night.

David Lee Miller, 24, of Parkville, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Elizabeth Walters, 24, of Baltimore, who was seven months pregnant. He also is charged with first-degree attempted murder in the shooting of Walters' 24-year-old companion. She is expected to survive.

Miller is not charged with the death of the unborn child.

That last sentence is interesting, since Maryland law states:

Under 2005 House Bill 398, amending Section 2-103 of the Annotated Code of Maryland, signed into law on May 26, 2005 and effective October 1, 2005, "A prosecution may be instituted for murder or manslaughter of a viable fetus," if the person prosecuted "intended to cause the death of the viable fetus, intended to cause serious physical injury to the viable fetus, or wantonly or recklessly disregarded the likelihood that the person's actions would cause the death of or serious physical injury to the viable fetus."

Did the accused intend to kill his child? It's hard to know anything about that issue by reading the Sun account.

Why the silence on the life or death of this unborn girl? Forget the abortion debates for a minute. Isn't that a rather basic fact in this story?

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