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Utah family's tragedy inspires change in N. Carolina law



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LAYTON — In 2007, life was good for Tim and Jenna Nielsen.

The couple was living in North Carolina, raising two young boys and awaiting the arrival of a third.

On June 14, 2007, everything changed.

Jenna was working an overnight job delivering newspapers. When she didn't come home from work that Thursday morning, her husband called police.

Police found Jenna's body behind a Raleigh convenience store. To this day, the person who took the 22-year-old woman's life — and that of her unborn son — has not been found.

And if the killer is ever caught, that person would not face charges for the unborn child's death. At the time, North Carolina didn't have a homicide law in place that recognized unborn victims.


Something good definitely came out of my wife getting killed. It's a good thing that not only is she recognized in this law, but my son is recognized in this law.

–Tim Nielsen


Now, due in part to the Nielsen family's tragedy more than four years ago, North Carolina is one of 36 states that recognizes the unlawful killing of an unborn child as a homicide.

"Something good definitely came out of my wife getting killed," Tim Nielsen said Sunday from his home in Layton. "It's a good thing that not only is she recognized in this law, but my son is recognized in this law."

When she was killed, Jenna was less than a month away from giving birth to the family's third child, whom she and her husband had decided to name Ethan.

North Carolina's Unborn Victims of Violence Act, passed April 29, 2011, is known as Ethan's Law. The law goes into effect Dec. 1.

In the years following Jenna's murder, her family pushed North Carolina lawmakers to enact such a law, wanting to make sure those who take the life of an unborn child can be punished for that crime.

"With (North Carolina) not having a fetal homicide law at the time this happened, I do feel like Ethan was overlooked," Tim Nielsen said.

Now, with Ethan's law in place, he'll never be forgotten, he said.

Tim Nielsen moved back to Utah in 2008 with his two sons, now ages 8 and 5. He's working to get his degree in criminal justice at Weber State University and is going through the police academy.

At some point, Nielsen said he'd like to go back to North Carolina to work in law enforcement.

"Ever since what happened to (Jenna), it sparked it. It kind of lit a fire underneath me to make sure, whatever field I get into, that … they don't go through the same thing I did," he said.

Email:jpage@ksl.com

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