UPDATE @1:56 a.m. (July 25): We are working to learn more about a search conducted Monday evening of the Carlisle home where a baby’s remains were found.
UPDATE @ 7:52 p.m. (July 24): Warren County sheriff's investigators on Monday evening are searching the house in Carlisle where the remains of a baby were found in the backyard on July 14, sheriff's Lt. John Faine said.
"All I can tell you is that we are executing a search warrant that will be sealed," he said Monday evening. He declined to discuss what investigators are looking for or what they have found so far.
Faine said investigators have been at the home on Eagle Ridge Drive since about 6 p.m. and will be there perhaps until about 10 p.m.
More than a dozen law enforcement personnel, including the Warren County prosecutor, are working the investigation of a Carlisle woman whose baby’s remains were found buried in the backyard of her home on July 14.
Grand jurors could hear the case against Brooke Skylar Richardson, 18 — currently charged with reckless homicide — as soon as the end of this week.
Prosecutor David Fornshell on Monday declined to say specifically when the case will be presented. However, he confirmed there is a grand jury session scheduled for Friday and said this case might go “if we think we’re in a position to present it.”
Among other developments Monday:
— Officials confirmed Richardson was a recent Carlisle High School graduate;
— Social service agencies reminded residents of Ohio’s “safe haven” laws, which allow newborns be left behind safely without parents facing charges; and
— Legal experts talked about what prosecutors will need to prove to secure a conviction.
‘Substantially further along’
Fornshell said the search warrants of what investigators sought in the case will remain sealed “for the time being.”
“We’re substantially further along that we were two weeks ago, but we’re still running things down,” Fornshell said.
He also declined to comment on the sex of the baby, how the baby died and the identity of the baby’s father.
Richardson was a cheerleader and had graduated from Carlisle High School this past spring, according to Carlisle School Superintendent Larry Hook. He declined to comment on Richardson, citing privacy laws.
Richardson was arraigned Friday in Franklin Municipal Court and a preliminary hearing scheduled for Aug. 1. If convicted of the charge, she faces a one to five year prison term.
According to the criminal complaint filed against her, “On or about May 7, 2017, one Brooke Richardson … did recklessly cause the death of another, or the unlawful termination of another’s pregnancy.”
‘Very active investigation’
Warren County Sheriff’s Lt. John Faine said investigators were in Carlisle on Monday, continuing their interviews and gathering more information on the case.
“This is still a very active investigation,” Faine said. “There is still a lot of work to do on this one.”
The case became public July 14 when investigators, received a tip from a doctor’s office that a Carlisle teenager may have delivered a stillborn infant. Investigators later found an infant’s remains buried in the backyard at Richardson’s residence in the 100 block of Eagle Ridge Drive.
Richardson’s attorney, Charles M. Rittgers, reiterated Monday what he said after Friday’s arraignment hearing, saying that “she is a very good person.”
He also said, “She didn’t drink. She wasn’t a partier or a smoker. By all measures a very good girl who helped children… She’s by all means a very good person,” Rittgers said as he described Richardson.
He said Richardson helped kids with disabilities at a cheer camp and worked at the YMCA with children.
Case hinges on circumstances
Legally, the case against Richardson is going to hinge on the circumstances that existed at the time of the child’s birth and death, according to University of Dayton law professor Thomas Hagel.
“One of the elements they have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt is that the child was alive,” he said.
That will likely involve the testimony of forensic experts.
Prosecutors will also have to prove that Richardson acted recklessly, or failed to act, and that led to the baby’s death.
Hypothetically, simply failing to help a newborn suffering from a life-threatening injury could be considered reckless homicide, he said.
“They certainly don’t have to prove that she intended to kill the child,” Hagel said.
Common, but under-reported
Historically, neonaticides – the name given to the killing of child within 24-hours of birth – have been common but were underreported and not prosecuted to the same extent as modern cases.
In the 1990s, University of Georgia demographer Everett S. Lee compiled data that showed the killing of babies within the first hour or first month after birth was much more common 30 years prior.
The availability of birth control pills starting in the 1960s and the legalization of abortion in 1973 have been cited as reasons for the drop in homicides of newborns, often committed by young women who have concealed unwanted pregnancies, according to multiple studies.
Publicly supported family planning services prevent an estimated 1.3 million unintended pregnancies annually, according to the CDC.
Women aged 15 to 19 have the highest unintended pregnancy rate of an age group, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which tracks reproductive health policy, but rates for all age groups have been dropping since 2008.
‘Safe haven’ laws
So-called “safe haven” laws have also helped, according to those that work in child protective services.
The state law provides an option for parents of newborns who wish to give up the infant within 30 days of birth.
It’s unknown how old Richardson’s baby was at the time of death, but investigators said the child was not stillborn.
Ohio’s safe haven law allows a birth parent to leave an infant with a medical worker at a hospital, at a fire department or other emergency service organization, or with a law enforcement officer.
“I’m sure these parents in these situations feel alone, but they do not have to feel alone,” said Angela Terez, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. “There’s plenty of help to be had, through the safe haven program or at the county children services agencies.”
‘No legal consequences’
“If the infant is left with a person at one of these places, and has not been abused, the parent will face no legal consequences for making this choice,” according to the ODJFS website. The birth parent is not required to provide any information, including his or her name, but basic health information can be helpful.
A form is available online at www.odjfs.state.oh.us.
“Any of us would like to know our family history,” Terez said.
Those considering leaving a baby at a safe haven location or who have questions about options can call the state’s Help Me Grow hotline at 1-800-755-4769.
If the baby needs medical attention, it will be provided. The county children services agency will also be contacted, and the baby will be placed in an adoptive home.
If the baby is older than 30 days, the safe haven law may not apply. Parents struggling to care for or looking to give up a child beyond that point should contact their local children’s services agency or call the Help Me Grow line.