Murder Charges for Killing Pregnant Mother and Unborn Child

January 11, 2023 Criminal Defense, News & Announcements, Violent Crimes

When a pregnant woman is killed in the state of Florida, the defendant can face murder charges for both the mother and the unborn child. In a recent Florida case, an Orange County man has been charged with first-degree murder and killing of an unborn child by injury to the mother.

This article will provide details from the case, along with information on the various criminal charges in Florida.

What was the Case?

Orange County Sheriff’s Office arrested Pierre Remy Floriant, 41, after he confessed to strangling his pregnant girlfriend to death in their Orlando apartment earlier this week.

Deputies were called to the Pointe Vista Apartments around 9 pm on January 5th, 2023 after the victim’s cousin called, concerned that something happened to 29-year-old Joanna Ragine Gomes-Simo, who was 20 months pregnant at the time.

The caller told police that Gomes-Simo’s car was parked outside of her apartment, but Floriant had given her conflicting accounts of her whereabouts when asked.

At one point the defendant claimed that Gomes-Simo had left the apartment in another vehicle, and at another time he claimed she was still inside the apartment. However, Floriant refused to let her cousin into the apartment.

During the investigation, Homicide Detective Anthony Ventriere found that Floriant had been arrested on domestic violence charges back in December. According to the report from the December 2nd incident, Floriant allegedly grabbed Gomes-Simo by the neck and pushed her into a wall. He allegedly tried to punch his girlfriend in the stomach to terminate the pregnancy.

After the domestic violence incident, Gomes-Simo told police that Floriant had a violent past of abuse. He allegedly threatened to kill her and her children in the past. A no-contact order was issued after Floriant’s arrest, which was meant to prohibit him from being within 500 feet of Gomes-Simo or her home.

Family members told Detective Ventriere that the couple had a “toxic” relationship and that the victim was planning to move to Indiana after the December incident to “get a fresh start.”

Interviews with Gomes-Simo’s other children—ages 5, 8, and 10—revealed that there were frequent fights between Floriant and Gomes-Simo. Although they did not witness their mother’s death, they did state that Floriant asked for Gomes-Simo’s password to her phone on the morning her body was found.

During his interview, Floriant claimed Gomes-Simo was cheating on him, despite not having any viable evidence. The defendant told police that he eavesdropped on a conversation between Gomes-Simo, believing it to be with another man and that she was cheating. He told police it was the “final straw,” and caused him to reach his “boiling point.”

Floriant told officers that he waited until Gomes-Simo was asleep, and then got on top of her and strangled her to death. “He further stated that he knew that killing her was wrong and it was a crime in the state of Florida,” Ventriere wrote.

“I asked him if he ever thought about leaving prior to killing her and he stated no. I asked if he ever thought about calling 911 and getting her medical attention and he stated no.”  

First-Degree Murder

When a person is unlawfully killed by someone else, there are several different degrees and penalties that a defendant in Florida can face. The most serious homicide charge is first-degree murder.

The main difference between first-degree murder and other categories of murder is the existence of “premeditation.” With just that one word, the prosecution must then prove beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant planned to take the life of another, rather than a spontaneous act of passion which would constitute second-degree murder.

Under Florida Statute section 782.04, first-degree murder is considered a capital felony. That means any case that is first-degree murder in Florida can have two possible penalties:

  • Life in prison without parole; or
  • Capital punishment

Florida is one of the states that still implements capital punishment—or the “death penalty.” Twenty-Four of the U.S. States still implement the death penalty, including Florida, Texas, Arizona, and Georgia.

If the prosecution intends to seek the death penalty in a first-degree murder case, then they must file a notice with the court within 45 days of the arraignment. Included in the notice must be a list of aggravating factors that the state has reason to believe can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

However, the State also has the ability to waive the death penalty as a sentencing option. In such cases, the State prosecutors would then elect to sentence the defendant to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Without a prosecutorial waiver of the death penalty, the defendant must appear in a separate sentencing procedure for a jury to determine whether he or she should be sentenced to life in prison or death. This is referred to as the Penalty Phase.

To find out more about murder charges in Florida, read our Tallahassee Murder and Homicide Defense Attorney page.

Killing of an Unborn Child by Injury to Mother

Prosecutors in the state of Florida can bring forward charges of manslaughter, second-degree murder, or first-degree murder against a person who has killed an unborn child by killing the pregnant mother.

Florida differentiates itself from other states in its definition of a fetus. While other states may offer protection to mothers during a later stage in the pregnancy, Florida defines an unborn child as a member of the human species, “at any stage of development, who is carried in the womb.”

Florida Statute section 782.09 defines the penalties for an individual who has been accused of killing an unborn child by injury to the pregnant mother.

The law states that the unlawful killing of an unborn child, by any injury to the mother of such child, which would be murder if it resulted in the death of the mother, shall be deemed murder in the same degree as that which would have been committed against the mother.

An individual accused of unlawfully killing an unborn child by injury to the mother that results in a manslaughter charge would result in a second-degree felony charge in Florida. A second-degree felony in Florida has a penalty of up to a $10,000 fine and up to fifteen years in prison.

If the individual is accused of unlawfully killing an unborn child by injury to the mother, which was considered murder in the second degree, would result in a first-degree felony. A first-degree felony has a penalty of up to a $10,000 fine and up to 30 years in prison.

If the individual is accused of unlawfully killing an unborn child by injury to the mother, which was considered murder in the first degree, would result in a capital felony. A capital felony has a penalty of either life in prison without parole or the death penalty.

One important detail to note is that the defendant can be charged with manslaughter or murder, even if there was no knowledge of the unborn child. This is regardless of whether the mother even knew she was pregnant at the time. So long as the victim was pregnant at the time of her death, it can result in a murder or manslaughter charge of the unborn child.

Example Sentencing Cases for Fetus Homicide

According to First Coast News, the Fourth Judicial Court of Florida’s State Attorney Office prosecuted two Jacksonville cases involving the death of an unborn child between 2010 and 2016.

  • 2010 – Andrew King, 27, was convicted of first-degree murder after stabbing his ex-girlfriend’s roommate, 23-year-old Felicia Burney. King claimed that Burney had been interfering between him and his ex-girlfriend, which resulted in him stabbing Burney in the chest and neck with a knife. King was sentenced to three consecutive life sentences.
  • 2014 – Virginia Wyche, 36, was convicted of second-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder after shooting a six-month pregnant woman in the stomach. According to the report, the victim went to Wyche’s home to discuss an argument they got into on social media. In the middle of the heated discussion, Wyche pulled out a gun and shot the woman in the stomach. The woman survived but her unborn child did not. Wyche was sentenced to a total of 50 years in prison.

Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida

Due to the nature of violent crimes, Florida State Attorneys are likely to prosecute cases involving murder harshly. This is especially true in cases involving unborn fetuses. If you or someone you love has been accused of murder or attempted murder of an unborn child, it is crucial to speak with a Tallahassee defense attorney near you.

Don Pumphrey and his team of defense attorneys have years of experience representing Florida citizens for various criminal charges. Our team will work diligently on your case, working with you to strategize a strong defense. To receive a free consultation regarding your case, contact Pumphrey Law Firm today at (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message on our website. 

Written by Karissa Key

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