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Memorial for pregnant mother killed by drunk driver

Published: Mar. 13, 2011 at 5:20 AM EST|Updated: Apr. 12, 2011 at 4:38 AM EDT
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Leanna Newman with her child that survived the wreck. (Source: MySpace)
Leanna Newman with her child that survived the wreck. (Source: MySpace)

LANDIS, NC (WBTV) – A memorial was held Saturday to remember Leeanna Newman and her unborn child Cheyenne.

Newman, 20, was 8 months pregnant when a drunk driver in Landis hit her car in 2007, killing her instantly. Doctors performed an emergency c-section to try and save the unborn child, but were unsuccessful.

Newman's daughter Mallory survived the crash. Friends and family say justice was not served.

Rigo Verto Guillen Martinez was in the U.S. illegally and driving drunk. He was convicted of second degree murder for Newman's death, but after a review of medical records , the state Medical Examiner's Office determined Newman's child did not live outside her body. Thus, Martinez did not face a second murder charge.

In September, Martinez was sentenced to the maximum sentence possible, 28 and a half years, and an extra two years for DWI. He also served an extra 45 days for hit and run/failure to stop.

Following the court proceedings, members of Newman's family went to Raleigh with local lawmakers to push for legislation protecting unborn children.

Several other states have similar legislation, but it has never passed in North Carolina.

At this point, there is a proposed bill going through the state legislature to make anyone who commits murder, manslaughter or assault against a pregnant woman guilty of the same crimes against the fetus.

The bill makes clear that the provisions don't apply to legal abortions. The measure also doesn't impose criminal liability on an expectant mother who suffers domestic violence which injures or kills her fetus.

The proposed bill is called "Ethen's Law" after the unborn son of Jenna Nielsen, who was eight months pregnant when she was stabbed to death outside a Raleigh convenience store in June 2007.