As John Andrew Welden, the 28-year-old pre-medical science student minoring in religious studies accused of first-degree murder and tampering with medicines, sits in the custody of Pinellas County awaiting his federal trial in July, 16 of his family members and friends have submitted letters of support requesting that Welden, previously deemed a flight risk, be released on bond. They have pledged more than $1.1 million.
“I have never known Andrew to get into any legal trouble or be violent in any way,” Melissa Parrott, a family friend, wrote. “… I have always known Andrew to be a sweet, quiet boy that was very polite. … I confidently affirm that Andrew is not a flight risk.”
One of Welden’s younger siblings, Hope, wrote of her relationship with her brother and how the allegations against him were out of character.
“Andrew has never been violent or angry in any way,” she wrote. “When we were young and in an argument, he would hold my hand while we argued to show me that he still loved me even when we were disagreeing.”
Hope wrote of how her brother’s arrest, which came last month after he was accused of feeding Cytotec pills, a drug sometimes used to induce labor, to Remee Lee, a
26-year-old woman he impregnated, with the intent of aborting her seven-week-old fetus. He forged his obstetrician father’s signature to obtain them, labeling them as “Amoxycillin,” which has caused grief for her family.
“Our family is very close,” she wrote. “During football season we go over to my parents’ home every Sunday to watch the Tampa Buccaneers’ game. … We make spaghetti and eat a family meal. Andrew is there every Sunday for this special family time. … This is the most traumatic thing that has happened in any of my family members’ lives. None of us can sleep because we cannot stop thinking about all the bad things that could be happening to him in jail. My older brother Christopher is very tough and never shows sadness. I have never seen him cry before in my life. Now, I see him cry every day.”
Welden’s longtime girlfriend, Tara Fillinger, who wrote she dated Welden for most of the last seven years, wrote that prior to Welden’s incarceration, they had discussed marriage plans and that, based on her relationship with him, she is confident he would not be a flight risk.
She wrote of his education at USF and his desire to make his family proud.
Lee, the 26-year-old who had expressed excitement over carrying the child, is now behind a bill to prevent crimes against fetuses, according to a Tampa Bay Times article. The article stated that Lee planned to name her baby “Memphis Remington,” and she hopes naming the bill after the child that she wasn’t able to name will make sure other women don’t experience what she did.
Welden’s trial has been set for July, and his defense counsel has filed court documents stating the case may raise controversial issues.
“This charge raises significant factual and constitutional questions, some of which may be of first impression, given the age of the unborn (less than seven weeks old) and the complicated medical scenario implicated by a combination of factors affecting the mother and, ultimately, the embryo. Discovery in this case will include complex medical, and possibly pharmacological, records and issues, which will implicate the need for experts in these fields,” one document stated. “ … Count two, the first-degree murder charge, brought under the Protection of Unborn Children Statute, carries a mandatory life sentence. It appears that this case represents the first time this charge has been brought in this district. In fact, the undersigned has located only two other cases charged under this statute throughout the United States. The undersigned believes that this statute, applied to the facts of this case, directly conflicts with the United States Supreme Court’s holding in Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), and its progeny, and that serious constitutional issues are raised in this case.”
But Welden’s family hopes that before the trial a bond will be set.
“In my family, when someone is having a bad day we give them what we call a ‘car wash,’ where we have a family group hug while everyone says one positive thing about the person who is having a bad day,” Hope wrote. “We all just want Andrew to get a bond so we can have a car wash and comfort our brother.”