Day 5 of the Brooke Skylar Richardson murder trial has ended with the prosecution resting its case.
After testimony, Judge Donald Oda II dismissed the charge of tampering with evidence that Richardson faced. She is still charged with aggravated murder, involuntary manslaughter, endangering children and abuse of a corpse for the incident that occurred in May 2017.
Earlier in the day, the jury was shown video of a second interrogation police held with Richardson on July 20, 2017. The defense team has said investigators pressured Richardson into making false statements during this interrogation, which led to her arrest.
The defense then moved into questioning former Warren County Sheriff’s Lt. John Faine, who was one of the investigators interviewing Richardson in the video, about the interrogation.
Defense attorney Charles M. Rittgers asked Faine about the report produced from the interview.
"It gets a little hazy because she changed her story so many times," Faine said.
The prosecution called Brandon Saylor, who said he began a relationship with Richardson in January 2017. He was her boyfriend when she gave birth. He was not the baby’s father.
He said he didn’t know she was pregnant when they began dating, and he learned of the baby only when the investigation became public. He took her to the senior prom on May 5, 2017, two days before the baby’s birth.
“I would say so,” Saylor said while looking at a photo of their prom night when asked if, in hindsight, she looks pregnant in the photo.
Saylor said Richardson told him she was having painful cramps, which he assumed were caused by menstruation.
The prosecution showed texts between Richardson and Saylor, including the night of the prom through the morning she gave birth.
After the birth, she texted Saylor (verbatim): “Ill tell you all about it later but last night was like the worst ever and I didn’t go to sleep till 5:30 but I feel soooooo much better this morning I’m happy”.
Warren County Detective Chris Wong, who pulled information from devices and cell phones in the case, was called to testify about the evidence he collected and to go over texts between Richardon and others, including her mother. In those texts, her mother encouraged her in April 2017 to go to the doctor to get birth control, warning her daughter that she wouldn’t want to get pregnant.
The text exchange between mother and daughter shows that Richardson’s mother was focused on her daughter losing or maintaining her weight.
>> INITIAL REPORT (Sept. 9, 2019)
The trial of a Carlisle woman accused of killing her newborn and burying her in the backyard enters a second week today with the continuation of the prosecution’s case.
Brooke Skylar Richardson, now 20, is charged with aggravated murder, involuntary manslaughter, endangering children, tampering with evidence and abuse of a corpse for the incident that occurred in May 2017.
After more than two years of twists and turns about legal issues that sent the case to the 12th District Court of Appeals, and two failed attempts at Ohio Supreme Court consideration, Richardson entered the Warren County Common Pleas Courtroom Tuesday to face a jury.
She says she delivered her baby in the toilet in an upstairs bathroom but that it was stillborn. The prosecution claims she murdered the baby she didn’t want.
Each day last week, Richardson walked through a crowd of local and national media in the lobby and in the courtroom. Richardson’s father, Scott, has been seated behind her in the front row behind defense team members Charles H. and Charles M. Rittgers and Neal Schuett.
Richardson’s mother, Kim, has not been permitted in the courtroom. She is under subpoena and is expected to testify, likely for the prosecution.
While the defense has not indicated if Richardson will testify in her own defense, jurors did hear from her, and will hear more, through police interrogation tapes.
The defense says Richardson — after being told she was 32 weeks pregnant in April 2017 (by a man she was no longer speaking to) — thought she had time to go to prom, graduate and tell her parents. But just days later, cramping began in the early morning hours, and Richardson delivered a stillborn baby girl and buried her in a shallow grave in the yard’s treeline, the defense says
Rittgers Jr. told the jury Richardson said the baby was white and she did not cut the umbilical cord.
“She sits down on the bathroom floor half naked … holding the baby, touching her baby. She cries. She names her daughter Annabelle,” Rittgers said. “She goes downstairs and gets a tiny little spade shovel that her mom had in the garage … walks out to the tree line that is visible from her bedroom window, with all the strength she has left, and digs a shallow grave, covers the grave with dirt and drags a flower pot that weighs about 25 pounds over in front of the grave site. From her bedroom she can see that site.”
Forensic anthropologist Dr. Elizabeth Murray said the baby’s remains, recovered in July 2017, were charred. The defense maintains a “mistake” by Murray led police to interview Richardson a second time and pressure her for a false confession. It was only then that Richardson was arrested and later indicted.
Murray later recanted her opinion that the baby’s bones were charred. But through other prosecution expert witnesses, the jury learned it is possible the flesh was burned without the flames reaching the bones.
The prosecution and defense agree Richardson told no one about her pregnancy, including the baby’s father, who confirmed from the witness stand his sexual relationship with Richardson.
The prosecution says Richardson kept quiet because she had no intention of raising the baby and killed the child at birth and concealed all evidence of her existence by the burial and continued silence.
Assistant Warren County Prosecutor Steven Knippen told the jury that Richardson sent her mother a text that said, “I am literally speechless with how happy I am my belly is back OMG,” just hours after she delivered the baby in secret.
“Those are the words that Brooke Richardson texted to her mother just hours after she murdered her infant daughter in the middle of the night and buried her lifeless body in the dirt behind their home,” Knippen said. “Brooke Richardson murdered a baby she didn’t want and never intended to keep. Upon finding out she was pregnant by a boy she wanted nothing to do with, Brooke Richardson burst into tears and told the doctor that she cannot have this baby.”
Two doctors who saw Richardson in 2017 at Hilltop OB-GYN testified for the prosecution last week. Dr. William Andrew, who first saw Richardson in April 2017 and told her she was pregnant, said she was very upset with the news.
“She (Richardson) said, ‘I can’t have a baby. I am going to college,’” Andrew said during testimony last week.
Dr. Casey Boyce said she confronted Richardson in July 2017 when she came to her office for birth control because she knew a colleague at her office had told her she was pregnant several months before.
“She started crying. She said, ‘I had it alone in my house and I buried it in my backyard,’” the doctor testified.
Dr. Susan Brown, a forensic pathologist for the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office, testified about the autopsy and investigation. She said the cause of death for the baby is “homicidal violence,” but the exact cause of death cannot be determined because of the condition of the remains. She said she made the determination based on the investigation that included Richardson’s statements during interrogation.
On cross examination, she said she cannot determine based on the remains if the baby suffered injuries before death or if she was stillborn.
Thursday’s viewing of Richardson’s first interview with police showed her crying and continuing to tell investigators that she did not kill her baby. She also continues to ask if she is in trouble.
In the video, her parents are allowed to enter the room. They tell her they wished she would have told them she was pregnant.
“This is the single worst possible scenario you could have put us in,” her father, Scott Richardson, says.
Because the forensic evidence cannot determine the cause of death for the baby — whom the prosecution refers to as “Baby Richardson” and the defense refers to as “Annabelle” — much of the evidence likely came from Richardson’s second interrogation video that is expected to be played for the jury today.
The jury saw a snippet of it Friday, with the defense playing a portion during cross examination of Brown.
Richardson is holding hands with a detective.
“Tell me about the fire,” the detective says.
“What fire?” Richardson says.
In the same interview, Richardson says, “I tried to cremate my baby,” according to a transcript of the interview read by assistant prosecutor Julie Kraft in court.