Sunday, November 19, 2017
News Roundup

As doctor's son serves time in abortion pill case, a fight for damages gains steam

RECOMMENDED READING


TAMPA — One March day in 2013, the married owners of a Lutz fertility clinic examined a pregnant young stranger who was carrying their unplanned grandchild.

Dr. Stephen Welden pointed out Remee Jo Lee's embryo in an ultrasound. His wife, nurse practitioner Lenora Welden, drew Lee's blood. The doctor's son, John Andrew Welden, stood in the wings, according to newly released reports.

Lee noticed the doctor's soft Tennessee accent and the sweet baby pictures on his wall, but pleasantries soon ended. She miscarried that weekend after the son — Andrew, to those who know him — fooled her into taking a drug that causes contractions, an act that landed him in prison.

Eleven months have passed since Lee helped send him there, but she appears not to be done with his family or anyone with possible ties to the loss of her nearly seven-week pregnancy.

One of her private attorneys filed papers in Hillsborough Circuit Court last month for an extension of time to make a medical malpractice claim against Stephen and Lenora Welden.

It is too soon to know what Lee might allege, but official records from the criminal case include references to both parents without accusing either of wrongdoing.

The son, now 30, has admitted using Dr. Welden's prescription pad to obtain the drug Cytotec through forgery.

Mrs. Welden's name came up when Hillsborough County sheriff's detectives interviewed Lee on March 31, 2013, at Tampa General Hospital. It was three days after the clinic visit and Lee's miscarriage had begun.

Lee described her exam by the Weldens. She got dressed, she said, and on the way out saw Dr. Welden in his office and Andrew talking to his stepmother. She told detectives she heard Mrs. Welden make an offer to Andrew.

"Let me know if you still need those pills," Lee recalled hearing, according to a transcript. She told detectives that she believed Mrs. Welden was referring to abortion pills.

Welden family attorney Todd Foster said this week Mrs. Welden denies making the statement or anything close to it.

"Mrs. Welden, Dr. Welden and Andrew deny it," he told the Tampa Bay Times. "If you are going to quote (Lee) to that effect, I suggest you mention that it is uncorroborated and denied by the Weldens."

Lee, represented by Web Brennan and Gil Sanchez, has already sued two pharmacists, a pharmacy technician and legal entities linked to Sunlake Pharmacy in Lutz, where the prescription was filled.

That lawsuit now involves at least 10 attorneys and has cleared enough hurdles for questioning under oath to begin.

One question that begs to be answered: Who at Dr. Welden's office took a phone call from the pharmacy to verify the date of the forged prescription? Dr. Welden, speaking through Foster, said it wasn't him.

Meanwhile, the FBI continues to investigate whether further charges might be warranted. The agency has not named any suspects and has not released its investigative reports.

Early on, the FBI had questions for pharmacy technician Josef Stahel, among those Lee has now sued.

According to Sheriff's Office records recently obtained by the Times, Stahel was read his Miranda rights at the request of FBI Special Agent Mike Donovan on April 26, 2013.

That was the day the FBI took over the abortion pill case, which ultimately led to federal charges against Welden under the Unborn Victims of Violence Act and a plea deal that brought him a prison sentence likely to end in 2025.

Stahel has not been charged with a crime. Neither he nor his attorney, Trevor Rhodes, responded to phone calls.

Rhodes unsuccessfully sought the lawsuit's dismissal, writing that Stahel could not have known his actions would lead to Lee ingesting Cytotec.

The lawsuit alleges that Stahel prepared a pill bottle with Lee's name on it, left the drug name blank, and gave the bottle to Welden. The label contained instructions consistent with Cytotec use, the suit states.

Welden admitted affixing an additional label that erroneously described the contents as amoxicillin, a common antibiotic, and telling Lee that her blood test showed an infection.

Additional details about the incident emerged from the recently released sheriff's report. Parts of the report were released after Welden's 2013 arrest. But many pages, including those that name pharmacy staff, were secret for 20 months. The Times obtained them after repeated public records requests.

The report states that pharmacist Ingrid Bendeck ultimately dispensed the Cytotec to Welden. She thought it was a strange request, the report states, "but she did not question it because he had a prescription."

She said Stahel took the first call from Welden asking if the pharmacy stocked Cytotec. It had to be ordered.

The sheriff's report stops in the spring of 2013.

It resumes briefly this past September, with a short release signed by Lee allowing a funeral home to claim remains of a life she once saw in the sonogram.

Contact Patty Ryan at [email protected] or (813) 226-3382.

Comments
Sunday morning QB, playoff edition

Sunday morning QB, playoff edition

Player of the Week | Michael Penix Jr., Tampa Bay TechPenix, a Tennessee commit, has been good all season and it seems as if he’s getting even better in the playoffs. On Friday night against Palmetto in the Class 7A region semifinals, he was too ...
Published: 11/19/17

Updated: 10 hours ago
Lightning finds its game too late, loses to Islanders

Lightning finds its game too late, loses to Islanders

TAMPA — The firepower showed up in the third period.Yanni Gourde and Ondrej Palat scored 13 seconds apart. Gourde scored again.Suddenly it was a one-goal game, and the Lightning appeared on its way to one of those comeback wins that would be remember...
Updated: 11 hours ago
No. 14 UCF rolls Temple 45-19, heads to War on I-4 unbeaten

No. 14 UCF rolls Temple 45-19, heads to War on I-4 unbeaten

PHILADELPHIA — There were so many reasons for UCF coach Scott Frost to worry about his team’s focus. With a huge game against USF looming, playing an improving Temple team in a stadium where the empty seats outnumbered the filled ones by about a 3-1 ...
Published: 11/18/17
Gerald McCoy to Ndamukong Suh: ‘Let them remember us’

Gerald McCoy to Ndamukong Suh: ‘Let them remember us’

TAMPA — In the spring of 2010, one of the biggest debates during the week leading up to the NFL draft was which defensive tackle would be selected first: Nebraska’s Ndamukong Suh or Oklahoma’s Gerald McCoy.Both figured to be highly productive NFL pla...
Published: 11/18/17
No. 2 Miami finishes on 30-0 run, tops Virginia 44-28

No. 2 Miami finishes on 30-0 run, tops Virginia 44-28

MIAMI — After Miami clinched the first Atlantic Coast Conference Coastal Division crown in program history, upset the then-No. 3 team in the country, claimed one of the top four spots in the College Football Playoff rankings and after many of the nat...
Published: 11/18/17
Bucs’ belief in Jameis Winston has been shaken

Bucs’ belief in Jameis Winston has been shaken

TAMPA — Belief is the biggest attribute a quarterback can bring to his team. Belief in his talent. Belief in his commitment to winning. Belief in his ability to bring everyone together and have his voice lead the path forward.But the belief the Bucs ...
Published: 11/18/17
Topkin: As Rays start dealing, how far will they go?

Topkin: As Rays start dealing, how far will they go?

After collecting intelligence at last week’s GM meetings, the Rays soon will launch their offseason mission of trading at least a couple of veterans to reduce payroll.The question is how far they will go — how many players they deal, and how big of n...
Published: 11/18/17
Bucs-Dolphins: Things to watch in Sunday’s 1 p.m. game

Bucs-Dolphins: Things to watch in Sunday’s 1 p.m. game

TAMPA — Can the Bucs pull off back-to-back wins with a backup quarterback? Win a game on the road for the first time this season? Politely hand the unnamed trophy for the state’s worst football team back to the Dolphins?With WR Mike Evans back from h...
Published: 11/18/17
Florida State routs Delaware State 77-6

Florida State routs Delaware State 77-6

TALLAHASSEE — Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher longed for his team to play in this type of game throughout its disappointing season.After Hurricane Irma caused a three-week layoff between FSU’s first two games, forcing it to play 11 in a row to finis...
Published: 11/18/17