Bond was increased Wednesday to $1 million for a Franklin woman facing charges of murder and involuntary manslaughter in the scalding death of her 4-year-old stepson, Austin Cooper.
Attorneys for Anna Ritchie, 24, of Bolder Drive, entered a not guilty plea on her behalf Wednesday morning in Warren County Common Pleas Court before Judge Robert Peeler, who set a trial date of Sept. 26.
Ritchie held Cooper in a tub of 134-degree water for about 20 to 25 minutes March 16 as a form of discipline, Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell said Monday when the grand jury indictment was announced.
Ritchie has been held in the Warren County Jail in lieu of a $350,000 bond previously set in Franklin Municipal Court when the charge against her was felony child endangering.
Ritchie now faces charges of murder, involuntary manslaughter and two counts of child endangering and felonious assault.
The first charge accuses Ritchie of placing the boy in the tub of water and holding him down, and the involuntary manslaughter charge accuses her of not seeking medical help for the boy after the incident, Fornshell said.
Because of the increased charges, Fornshell asked the judge to increase bond to $1 million without the possibility of posting 10 percent.
Defense attorney Seth Cantwell requested bond remain the same for Ritchie, noting her family and her pastor were in court and she has strong support.
“She is no risk,” Cantwell told the judge
Peeler granted the high bond, but did permit the 10 percent rule, noting Ritchie has no previous criminal record and is low risk to not appear for court, according to pre-trial services.
If Ritchie does make bond, Peeler ordered her to be on house arrest and to have no contact with children under the age of 18.
Ritchie said nothing during the hearing except “yes, your honor” when answering questions asked by the judge.
“Obviously the fact that he (the judge) allowed 10 percent makes it a lot more likely that she could make (bond),” Fornshell said after the hearing.
“Frankly, in a situation like this where the passions of the community are a little bit inflamed at this point over the allegations that are involved here, jail might be the safest place for her to be at this point in time …,” he said.
Ritchie’s attorneys and family left the courtroom without comment.
According to prosecutors, when the little boy was pulled from the tub, his skin was hanging off his legs and he was bleeding. Ritchie put the child to bed in pajamas and socks about 4:30 p.m., and when his father checked on him the next morning at 9:30 p.m. the child was dead.
Austin didn’t like to take baths, and Ritchie placed in him in the scalding tub “to teach him a lesson,” Fornshell told this news outlet earlier this week.
The boy died of hypovolemic shock while in his bed due to loss of blood and fluid caused by the burns over half of his body, according to the prosecutor.
If Austin had been treated right after injury, “we believe it was 95 percent survivable,” Fornshell said earlier this week.
The evidence indicates Ritchie resented being the primary caregiver of her step-son in January while his father worked, Fornshell said. He said the father was aware of Ritchie’s rough parenting style in the past, but nothing to indicate abuse in the past.
At trial, charges will be merged, but if found guilty of murder, Ritchie faces 15 years to life in prison.
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