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Doctor facing abortion murder charge to be sent to Maryland

By James Nelson

SALT LAKE CITY (Reuters) - An abortion doctor charged with murder in Maryland in a case expected to test the state's fetal homicide law waived her right to fight extradition from Utah on Monday.

Dr. Nicola Irene Riley, 46, will be sent back to Maryland in the comings days to face murder and conspiracy charges in the high-profile case, which made headlines after authorities said they found 35 fetuses in an abortion clinic freezer.

Although the indictment against Riley remains under seal and the details of the charges against her are not yet public, police in Elkton, Maryland have said the case stems in part from a botched 2010 abortion that triggered a lengthy investigation.

Her co-defendant, Dr. Steven Chase Brigham, is charged with five counts of first-degree murder, five counts of second-degree murder and one count of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder.

Riley has been held in Salt Lake City since her arrest on a fugitive warrant in late December.

She waived extradition proceedings after Utah Third Judicial District Judge Ann Boyden rejected a request from her attorneys to set bail at $30,000.

Defense lawyers had said that if she were granted bail, Riley would return to Maryland voluntarily to face the charges.

Cecil County State's Attorney Ellis Rollins said the case could be the first of its kind to test Maryland's 2005 fetal homicide law, under which murder charges can be brought against people who intend to cause the death of a viable fetus.

Outside court, Riley's attorney Edwin Wall said his client had provided "sound medical care" to her patients and would be vindicated.

Brigham was arraigned last week in Maryland's Cecil County Circuit Court and released on $500,000 bail.

(Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Greg McCune)