A Warren County grand jury will now consider the case of a Franklin stepmother, who police said confessed to holding 4-year-old Austin Cooper in a tub of scalding water for 25 minutes.
During a 10-minute hearing Friday afternoon for Anna Ritchie, 25, of Bolder Drive, on a charge of felony child endangering, Franklin Detective Jeff Stewart testified Ritchie told him she “ran the water a little hotter than usual as punishment” because the boy didn’t like taking baths.
Ritchie said she held the boy in the water for about 25 minutes on the afternoon of March 16, Stewart testified.
“(She said) she observed Austin screaming and telling her the water was hot,” Stewart said.
When Ritchie took Austin out of the tub, she said pieces of his skin were in the water, the detective said.
Ritchie told police she then put ointment on the child’s legs and socks, “because she didn’t want Austin’s father to see the burns and she didn’t want to get blood on the sheets,” Stewart said.
The detective said Ritchie told the child’s father that Austin had been burned, but told him not to check on him because she didn’t want to wake him. The father did not check on the child until next morning, according to police, and that’s when he called 911.
Ritchie knew the child was in distress, police said.
“She indicated she heard him crying for two or three hours,” Stewart said.
The child’s family members cried and shook while sitting in the front row of the courtroom. Ritchie showed no emotion during the brief hearing.
“I wanted to go over the counter at her,” Missy True, Austin’s great aunt, said after the hearing.
“It is not fair, he was just a little 4-year-old,” True said, while choking back tears. She said she wants Ritchie to face a murder charge and that the boy’s father should also face criminal charges.
After hearing the evidence, Judge Rupert Ruppert bound the case over to a grand jury for consideration. Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell indicated test results were needed before additional charges are considered for Ritchie.
She is being held in the Warren County Jail on $350,000 bond.
“We are not going to take it to grand jury until we get toxicology results back and the coroner issues are final,” Fornshell said. “We need to have that information before we can decide what other charges may be appropriate.”
Warren County Coroner’s Investigator Doyle Burke said the child’s death is a homicide, but the exact cause of death has not yet been determined.
“The fact is this kid would be alive if it wasn’t for the injuries,” Burke said.
The boy suffered third-degree burns from his knees to toes, according to Burke.
“His death stems from the injuries,” he said.