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Texas law requires unborn baby to be counted among victims of Sutherland Springs shooting

(Reuters/Jonathan Bachman)An aerial photo shows the site of a mass shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.

A Texas law passed in 2003 requires that the unborn child of a pregnant victim in the mass shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs to be counted as one of the casualties.

Crystal Holcombe, who was eight months pregnant, was one of the 26 parishioners who were killed when gunman Devin Kelley carried out the massacre at the Texas church on Sunday.

According to Religion News Service, the feticide law would have required that Kelley be charged with the murder of Holcombe's unborn child, had he not died after the incident.

Apart from Texas, feticide laws that apply to the earliest stages of pregnancy, including conception, are currently in effect in 22 other states.

Such laws are not applicable to women who have legal abortions, but critics of feticide laws argue that they are more often used to prosecute women whose drug use or other illegal behavior results in the termination of a pregnancy than men who abuse pregnant women.

The first feticide laws were introduced in 2002 after the murder of Laci Peterson, who was eight months pregnant at the time of her death.

Texas officials have previously stated that about 12 to 14 children were killed in the attack on Sutherland Springs, but recent reports indicated that eight children had died.

The gunman shot crying babies at point-blank range and went aisle to aisle to look for victims, according to a couple who survived the attack.

Rosanne Solis and Joaquin Ramirez, who were sitting near the entrance to the church when the gunman began firing his rifle, said that they survived the attack by huddling close to the ground and playing dead. Ramirez has been hit with a shrapnel, while Solis was shot in the arm. About 20 other people were reportedly injured in the attack.

"There were just so many babies in there. It was a church. It was families," said Torie McCallum, the former sister-in-law of Holcombe. "Watching them take person after person after person out was so heartbreaking," she continued.

McCallum, who is also a volunteer medic in nearby Floresville, had identified Holcombe and her three dead children, namely 11-year-old Emily, 13-year-old Greg and 9-year-old Megan.

She noted that the three children were excited to have a new sibling and decided that the baby's name, whether a boy or girl, should be Billy Bob Wigglebottom.

On Wednesday, Texas authorities included Carlin Brite "Billy Bob" Holcombe on the official list of victims.

Investigators have recovered at least 15 empty magazines that held 30 rounds each, suggesting that Kelley had fired at least 450 rounds.

The shooting appeared to have stemmed from Kelley's dispute with his mother-in-law, who sometimes attended the church but was not present on Sunday, the investigators said.

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