Under The Radar Violence
In The Conflict Over Abortion


As you read these cases, there are several things to keep in mind.

  • Because of some insurmountable research barriers associated with these cases, those shown here represent no more than a tiny fraction of the whole. In fact, they are not even all the examples we were able to uncover, but are merely a representative sample of them.
  • These cases only deal with instances in which the victim died and do not include the much larger group of women who survived being beaten, shot, stabbed or worse.
  • The details of the attacks committed against the women and girls in these particular cases are not unusual. To the contrary, they are typical of the cases we found. In fact, we often softened the descriptions of them in order to keep this report from becoming unnecessarily graphic and difficult to read.

At the beginning of each file, the victim’s name is given followed by her age, the year she was killed and the state in which her death took place. Also included is whether her refusal to have an abortion was either the Confirmed or the Self-Evident motive for her murder.

This latter designation was necessary in order to address the fact that media and law enforcement reports often state that the victim was killed because the perpetrator “was angry about the pregnancy” or “didn’t want the baby” or “claimed that the baby wasn’t his” or said that he “wasn’t ready to be a father,” etcetera. As explained earlier, our research shows that when a male displays these kinds of attitudes about his partner’s pregnancy, his first reaction will be to demand that she have an abortion. In almost every incident in which violence ensues, its motive will be that she refused to comply.

Harrell, Dawnette Marie

Age: 29, Date: 2006, State: MI

Abortion Motive Self-Evident

Court records state that, when Justin Scott Stair found out Ms. Harrell was pregnant with his child, he wanted her to have an abortion so he would be free to join the military. She refused and Stair shot her in the back of the head. Her body was eventually found in a shallow grave near the home of Stair’s parents. In 2008, he was convicted for her murder and given life without parole.

[The Traverse City Record Eagle 5-6-2007 • Channel 9 News 2-25-2008 • State of Michigan Court of Appeals No. 288175]

Harris, JoAnn Crystal

Age: 29, Date: 2007, State: CA

Abortion Motive Confirmed

Scott Allen Ansman was convicted of beating Ms. Harris to death with a baseball bat. According to authorities, Ansman was married and having an affair with the victim and, when she became pregnant, he demanded that she have an abortion. Because she refused, he tried to recruit someone to beat her enough to cause a miscarriage. When that was unsuccessful, he decided to kill her himself. In 2009, Ansman was given life without the possibility of parole.

[California Second Appellate District, Division Seven Los Angeles County Super. Ct. No. SA065166 • The Culver City Patch 5-31-2011 • The Front Page Online 5-28-2009]

Hayes, Althea

Age: 27, Date: 1993, State: AZ

Abortion Motive Confirmed

According to court documents, Ms. Hayes was shot four times including twice in the back of the head. At the time, she was pregnant with the child of Jerrod Mustaf, a former player with the National Basketball Association’s Phoenix Suns. Prosecutors said that Mustaf recruited his cousin, LaVonnie Wooten, to kill Ms. Hayes because she refused to have an abortion. In 1996, a jury gave Wooten life after finding him guilty of murder. However, despite eyewitness testimony that Wooten said he traveled from Maryland to Arizona “to take care of business” for his cousin, police did not have enough evidence to bring criminal charges against Mustaf.

[Arizona Casa Grande Dispatch 1-30-1996 • Seattle Times 10-20-1996 • CNN Sports Illustrated 9- 19-1998 • Arizona Court of Appeals Division One No. 1 CA-CR 96-0579]

Hayes, Sonya

Age: 27, Date: 1999, State: OH

Abortion Motive Confirmed

Court records show that Terrence Davis shot Ms. Hayes six times because she refused to abort their unborn child. In 2002, Davis was convicted of murder in what prosecutors called a “street abortion” and given life in prison without the possibility of parole.

[The Associated Press 2-7 & 11-2000 • Toledo Blade 2-10-2000 • Ohio Court of Appeals Sixth Appellate District No. L-00-1143, Trial Court No. CR-99-1588 June 2002]

Hill, Kimberly Diane

Age: 24, Date: 1989, State: AL

Abortion Motive Self-Evident

The body of Ms. Hill was found hog tied with telephone cords. She had been beaten and stabbed 21 times and a towel was stuffed down her throat in an apparent attempt to muffle her screams. It was later revealed that she was pregnant by Joseph Ward Gentry, her co-worker at a Birmingham bank. In a taped confession, Gentry told police that he killed Ms. Hill because her pregnancy posed a threat to his career and marriage. He originally received the death penalty but it was overturned on appeal and replaced with a lesser sentence.

[The Birmingham News 1-25-2007 • Supreme Court of Alabama No. 1970962]

Jackson, Sharon

Age: 32, Date: 1993, State: PA

Abortion Motive Confirmed

Harvey Colvin intentionally ran over Ms. Jackson with her own car. Prosecutors determined that, at the time of her death, she was pregnant with Colvin’s baby and that the two were fighting over her refusal to have an abortion. In 1994, he pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was given 50 years in the state penitentiary.

[The Philadelphia Inquirer 7-30-1993 / 12-23-1994]

Johnson, Tonya

Age: 36, Date: 2009, State: TN

Abortion Motive Confirmed

Tarence L. Nelson was convicted on two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Ms. Johnson and their unborn child. Investigators say Nelson was angry that she would not have an abortion and decided to kill her. Ms. Johnson was shot in the head and in the abdomen, reinforcing the prosecution’s claim that he was trying to kill both mother and child. In 2011, Nelson was given two life sentences.

[Greenfield Daily Reporter 6-27-2011 • WMC-TV 9-27-2009 • My Fox Memphis 9-28-2009]

Lovato, Sarah Marie

Age: 17, Date: 2009, State: NM

Abortion Motive Self-Evident

Charged in the double homicide of Ms. Lovato and her father is Marino Leyba, Jr. Police investigators say that Ms. Lovato was pregnant with Leyba’s baby and that his motive for shooting her was his anger over her decision to carry the pregnancy to term. Apparently, her father was killed simply because he was present at the murder scene.

[The New Mexican 4-26-2010 / 7-6-2010]

Lyons, Ashley Renee

Age: 18, Date: 2004, State: KY

Abortion Motive Confirmed

Ms. Lyons was pregnant with the child of Roger McBeath when he shot her twice in the head and once in the neck. Investigators say that McBeath had told Ms. Lyons to have an abortion but she refused. They say he then solicited people to physically assault her and cause a miscarriage. During his trial, it was also revealed that he had called a former girlfriend of his who worked in a hospital emergency room and asked her about the availability of abortion-causing pills or other products. In 2009, McBeath confessed to killing Ms. Lyons and was given a 42-year prison sentence.

[Associated Press State & Local Wire 9-22-2004 • Lexington Herald Leader 3-31-2004 / 10-26-2004 • WKYT-TV 8-4-2009]