The jury in Brooke Skylar Richardson’s murder trial heard from the defendant for the first time on Thursday, as prosecutors played a video of her first interview with investigators.
About two hours of an eight-hour video recorded on July 14, 2017 were played after a delay of nearly two hours to start the third day of the high-profile trial that is getting national attention. Defense attorney Charles M. Rittgers told Warren County Common Pleas Judge Donald Oda II that his father and defense team member Charles H. Rittgers was not present because of a “personal family issue” and that Richardson was ready to proceed with trial.
Richardson, now 20, is charged with aggravated murder, involuntary manslaughter, child endangering, abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence in the death of her baby in 2017.
Retired Warren County Sheriff’s Lt. John Faine is seen in the video escorting Richardson into the a small white room at the Carlisle Police Department. She is wearing a striped shorts jumpsuit with sunglasses propped on her head.
“You need to tell me what’s going on … am I going to be arrested?” Richardson says to Faine and a female officer.
Richardson signs a rights acknowledgement card and tells Faine she is going to the University of Cincinnati in the fall to study psychology and “maybe work with kids.”
When Faine lays out why she is there, telling Richardson that police received a call from a doctor’s office about a possible stillborn baby buried in the yard, Richardson begins crying.
“My parents are going to kill me … I didn’t want to tell them, but now they are going to find out,” Richardson says to Faine.
Richardson says she suspected she was pregnant even before the April 2017 doctor’s visit at which she learned conclusively, because she was “really big” and she could feel the baby move “a little.”
When she returned to the doctor’s office in July 2017, Richardson says she told them, “I had a baby, it wasn’t alive.”
The teen looks at Faine crying and says, “I didn’t kill her … Am I in trouble?”
Richardson says she was having bad cramps late on the night of May 7 and went into her bathroom.
“It came out when I pushed and it wasn’t breathing,” she said.
Sobbing, Richardson says the baby didn’t move and had her eyes closed.
“I never meant to hurt her,” she says, and she asks again, “Am I going to be in trouble?”
Richardson says she had the deceased baby with her as she looked for a shovel to bury her. She “put a little hole in my backyard and put her in it,” she says.
She did an internet search for how to perform an abortion, but she says she was too far along and did not take any action.
“I did not try and kill my baby,” she says.
Faine against asks her, “Did you help yourself with an abortion?” Richardson says, “I would never.”
Eventually, Richardson’s parents, Scott and Kim Richardson, are permitted in the interrogation room.
“Mommy,” Richardson says while half-crying as her mother hugs her.
Scott Richardson tells her she should have told them about the pregnancy. The parents appear to be in shock.
“They are digging up stuff in the backyard … the neighbors have already called me,” Kim Richardson says.
Richardson continues to tell her parents that she didn’t kill the baby. She cries throughout the conversation with her parents and tells them that she was taking birth control even after learning she was pregnant.
“This is the single worst possible scenario you could have put us in,” Scott Richardson says.
The parents continue to tell Richardson she has to tell the truth. She says she is.
“How do we know if you are telling the truth?” Scott Richardson says. “You lied to us, you buried a baby in the backyard … that is why they don’t believe you.”
Richardson continued to tell her parents she loves them and that she did not hurt the baby. She is also very worried about whether the police are going to arrest her.
“I just want to go home,” Richardson says over and over. And to herself she says, “It will be alright.”
Scott Richardson, who was sitting in the front row of the courtroom behind his daughter on Thursday, wiped away tears several times during the emotional video. Kim Richardson is not permitted in courtroom. She is under subpoena and will likely be called to testify by the prosecution.
At one point in the video, Kim Richardson tells her daughter, “Skylar, you are not going home with us.” This panics Richardson even more, and the two begin to bicker.
Scott Richardson stops the exchange. He then gets up, takes a chair beside his daughter and puts his arm around her.
“Whatever this is, we will get through it,” he says to his daughter.
Ultimately, Richardson did go home that day after law enforcement searched the backyard. But just days later, after a second search of the yard, a claim by a prosecution witness that the baby’s bones were burned and a second interrogation of Richardson, she was charged with reckless homicide and taken into custody.
A grand jury later indicted Richardson on the murder charge and other felonies. She is free on $50,000 bond.