Judge seals Brooke Skylar Richardson’s conviction for abusing baby’s corpse

A Warren County judge in the Brooke Skylar Richardson case issued a written opinion sealing her conviction for abusing her baby’s corpse.

Richardson, now 23, was found guilty in September 2019 of gross abuse of a corpse, a fifth-degree felony, following the death of her baby girl, whom she buried in the backyard of her parents’ Carlisle home in May 2017. After a lengthy trial, she was sentenced to three years of community control.

During a brief hearing last month, Common Pleas Judge Donald Oda II acknowledged Richardson’s offense is eligible to be sealed, but said he was reluctant to erase all record of the case from the official file.

A sealing of the conviction essentially means the case no longer exists in the criminal justice system. It cannot be viewed publicly as part of the clerk of courts’ records.

Prosecutors opposed the motion to seal because it would diminish the seriousness of Richardson’s offense.

Oda issued the brief opinion on Monday granting Richardson’s request and ordered the “official records pertaining to the case shall be sealed, all index references hereto shall be deleted and the proceedings in this case shall be deemed not to have occurred.”

By 5 p.m. Monday, the case no longer existed in a search of the Warren County Clerk of Court’s website.

The motion requesting a seal was filed in August by her attorney, Charles M. Rittgers, 19 months Richardson was released from probation. Oda, the judge who presided over the trial, released Richardson after 14 months of her 36-month probation.

ExploreBrooke Skylar Richardson, convicted of abusing baby’s corpse, requests seal

In the opposition to seal the motion, Assistant Warren County Prosecutor Steven Knippen said that without law enforcement’s discovery of a full-term baby girl in Richardson’s backyard, no one would have known the child existed.

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Oda said during last month’s hearing he usually seals cases such as Richardson’s, based on the degree of crime and the good behavior of the defendant while on probation. But he said this was not an ordinary case because of its local and national media coverage.

“There is no dispute that her offense is eligible to be sealed,” Oda said. “And I find she has been rehabilitated to the satisfaction of the court.”

Oda said the interest in this case was significant with local and national media including documentaries, a book, magazine articles, crime news shows and “it even has its own Wikipedia page.”

The judge said he had to decide whether he wants the internet to be the official record of this case.

In the written opinion, Oda said “the court finds defendant has significant interest in having the conviction sealed. The public also has a significant interest for government to maintain the records. However, the court finds the defendant’s interest in this matter outweighs the legitimate needs of the State of Ohio to maintain these records.”

Richardson, then an 18-year-old high school senior, gave birth to the baby in secret and buried her in the backyard. She was acquitted on charges of aggravated murder, involuntary manslaughter and child endangering after months of litigation and a trial that received national media coverage.

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TRIAL COVERAGE

Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7

‘There was no proof at all’: Juror describes Brooke Skylar Richardson verdict decision

‘Bring closure for Annabelle’: Richardson family to bury baby’s remains more than 2 years later

WATCH all videos from Brooke Skylar Richardson trial

Timeline: Events in the Carlisle buried baby case

Quotes: Key things said during the Richardson trial

The 28 people who testified over 6 days

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