TAMPA - The man who tricked his pregnant girlfriend into taking an abortion pill turned himself in to federal authorities Wednesday morning to begin serving a lengthy prison term.
John Welden, 29, surrendered shortly before 9 a.m. at the Federal Courthouse in downtown Tampa. He was sentenced to 13 years and eight months behind bars on Monday.
Before sentencing Welden, Judge Richard Lazarra told Welden that tricking Remee Jo Lee into taking an abortion pill was evil and cowardly. For that, the judge told Welden he must be made an example out of and added that this case is among the most tragic he has seen since taking to the bench.
Welden showed no emotion when the sentencing was read. However, his family broke down in tears.
"Of course I feel remorseful for everything," replied Welden when asked by ABC Action News if he was sorry. This is the first time Welden has spoken publicly about the case.
Last year, Welden accepted a plea deal where he admitted he tricked Lee into taking the drug.
Welden explained to the court how he had a fake prescription label printed with Lee's name on it. Inside the bottle was Cytotec, an abortion pill, instead of Amoxicillin as the label stated. Welden took the pills to Lee's house on Easter weekend in 2013 and advised her to take three pills sublingually until the bottle was empty.
Welden's father, Dr. Stephen Welden, a prominent Lutz obstetrician, saw Lee the prior day and diagnosed her to be six weeks pregnant.
According to Lee, prior to Welden bringing the pills over, he phoned her to inform her that blood work taken at his father's office revealed she had a bacterial infection and would need to take the Amoxicillin.
Welden also admitted to scratching off any identifiers on the pills.
Within a few hours of taking the first pill, Lee said she began to bleed heavily and went to the emergency room.
It was there that doctors examined the pills and informed her they were not Amoxicillin.
Doctors also informed Lee that her baby no longer had a heartbeat.
"He hurt me really badly. I felt death inside of me that day," Lee told the court.
Lee did not look at Welden while on the stand even though she was less than five feet from the man she once referred to as 'the love of her life.'
However, when she was done testifying, Lee stared directly into Welden's eyes as she walked back to her seat. She then buried her head in her father's chest and wept. Her mother, Rosa, was also by her side.
Welden took the stand last to beg the judge for mercy.
During his 10 minute testimony, Welden's voice quivered as he told the court that 'his selfish actions' brought him to where he is today.
Adding to the pressure, Lee also decided to stand up and looked Welden in the eye for his entire testimony.
Welden said he felt remorseful for the pain he caused and accepted full responsibility. However, like everyone who testified on his behalf, Welden never referred to his unborn child. Instead, calling what happened a mistake.
"I am scared of what awaits me in prison," Welden explained.
Welden's two friends, three of his siblings, his father, grandmother and one of his security guards testified on his behalf.
Welden's father asked that his son not be put away for long because there are elderly family members who will likely pass away while he is in prison.
The U.S. Attorney countered that Lee will never see her unborn child, whom she named Memphis, but Welden's family can always visit him.
Lee's parents, grandfather and cousin also testified that Welden robbed them of seeing Memphis grow up and robbed Lee of being a mother.
"He left my daughter broken and bleeding," said Rosa Lee. "Never did I think someone could be so callous."
A judge has agreed to recommend that Welden be placed at a camp facility where he can have physical contact with his family.
His attorney, Todd Foster, specifically requested Welden be placed at a camp in Pensacola. If not there, the closet camp to the Tampa Bay area.
Under federal law, Welden will have to serve 85 percent of his sentence. When he is finally let out, he will have to spend three years on supervised release, report to a probation officer, undergo random drug testing and be enrolled in substance abuse and mental health programs.
Foster had a psychiatrist testify that Welden was addicted to pot since he was 15 and has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
U.S. Attorneys downplayed any psychiatric issues and simply equated Welden to a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. They say he lived a double life and it caught up with him.
"This was a cold blooded, premeditated crime," said the U.S. Attorney.
Until the bureau of prisons assigns Welden to a camp, he will be held at the Citrus County Jail starting Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Lee is pursuing a civil lawsuit.