By Thaddeus M. Baklinski

GULFPORT, MS, November 18, 2010 ( – A Gulfport man charged with the murder of his pregnant girlfriend will also be charged with fetal homicide, according to the prosecuting attorney handling the case.

Kevin Crockett is charged with the Nov. 8 murder of Taneka Johnson, 28, who was five months pregnant with his child.

“I searched the law and found a change that makes it possible to charge him with the murder of a fetus. The paperwork will be done first thing Thursday,” Harrison County prosecuting attorney Herman Cox said after a preliminary hearing on Wednesday, Nov. 17, according to the Sun Herald.

As of March of this year, at least 38 states had fetal homicide laws of some kind, while 21 states had laws that apply to even the earliest stages of pregnancy, such as “any state of gestation,” “conception,” “fertilization” or “post-fertilization.”

Mississippi Code Ann. § 97-3-37 defines manslaughter to include “the willful killing of an unborn quick child by an injury to the mother of such child,” and Code Ann. § 11.7.13 includes “the death of a fetus in wrongful death statute as murder or manslaughter.”

In 2004, Mississippi broadened the definition of an unborn child with regard to its fetal homicide laws to include “every stage of gestation from conception until live birth.”

Cox noted that the penalty for killing an unborn child is up to 20 years and Crockett, age 42, faces life in prison if found guilty of Johnson’s and her child’s murder.

Assistant District Attorney Charlie Wood told the Sun Herald that the revised fetal homicide charge has rarely been used in the state.

“It’s rare but only because homicide victims are usually men, sometimes women, but rarely an unborn child,” Wood said.

Presiding judge Albert Fountain bound the case over to a grand jury and is holding Crockett at the Harrison County Adult Detention Center under a $5 million bond.

See related LSN articles:

Calif. Judge Gives Man 50-Yr. Sentence for Murdering Unborn Baby

Mom to be Charged with Killing Unborn Infant while DUI