Anna Ritchie left the house a 7 a.m. the morning after her 4-year-old stepson, Austin Cooper, had been scalded in a tub of water, went to Kroger and was reading magazines at the library when she got a call from her husband.
“Anna, you need to get home now. He is (expletive) dead,” Robert Ritchie told his wife during a call March 16 that was heard by Franklin Police Sgt. Shannon Cotton.
Anna Ritchie, of Franklin, is charged with murder, involuntary manslaughter and two counts of child endangering and felonious assault for the death of Austin, but her defense team claims her constitutional rights were violated when she was questioned by police without having her Miranda Rights read.
Therefore, her lawyers argued during a hearing Tuesday, statements she made to police should not be admitted at trial.
During the hearing, Warren County Judge Robert Peeler watched the nearly two-hour video of police questioning Ritchie just hours after the boy was found dead in his bed.
Ritchie made several incriminating statements to Detectives Steve Figliola and Jeff Stewart before and after she was read her Miranda Rights, which occurred nearly 30 minutes into the questioning by police.
Just minutes into the questioning, Ritchie begins crying and says, “I am still trying to process how he is dead.”
Ritchie told Figliola she ran the water and put Austin in the bathtub then walked away to get towels and to check on something she was cooking. When she came back, she put her hand in the water and realized it was too hot.
“I realized there was dry skin in the water and I was like, ‘Oh my God, what have I done,’ ” Ritchie said.
Ritchie, a cashier at Kroger and a graduate of Springboro High School, told Figliola that children overwhelm her and she may have been rough with Austin that day and in the past.
“I am sorry. I will accept full punishment,” Ritchie said during questioning in March.
While watching video of the questioning Tuesday in court, Ritchie began crying.
After 20 minutes of questioning, Ritchie was advised of her Miranda Rights but she continued to talk with detectives. During more pressing interrogation by Stewart, she admitted she ran the water hotter than usual as punishment.
“I was holding him down pretty hard trying to bathe him, I will admit that,” she said, adding she held the boy in the tub for about 25 minutes.
Ritchie said she was frustrated with Austin because he never wanted to take a bath and whined about it, so she ran the water extra hot.
“I will admit it was a form of punishment, but I didn’t think it was going to make his skin fall off,” she said.
When she saw Austin’s bleeding feet, she put socks on them and put him to bed. Later in questioning, Ritchie said Austin “whined” for about three hours, but she did nothing.
When detective Stewart asked if she considered getting Austin medical help, she answered, “it never crossed my mind.”
Ritchie said she told her husband when he came home that Austin had been burned and that it was an accident.
He turned down the water heater at that time, according to police.
She left the house, but told her husband not to check on the boy. And no one did until he was found dead the next morning.
“I will admit we should have checked on him. I feel so guilty for that,” Ritchie said.
Ritchie said she only got a few hours of sleep that night and left the house early. Again she did not check on her stepson. She told the detectives she wanted to clear her head.
The defense claims officers began interrogating Ritchie in order to obtain potentially incriminating information and that questioning involved “compelling pressures.”
They also point to the 20-minute gap before her Miranda Rights were read and that neither she nor her husband were ever told they were free to leave.
Peeler said he would take the matter under advisement and issue a written decision at a later date.
Ritchie is being housed in the Warren County Jail on $1 million bond. Her trial is set for Sept. 26.
Robert Ritchie, 31, is facing charges of involuntary manslaughter and felony child endangering for allegedly failing to obtain medical treatment for his son.
Thank you for reading the Journal-News and for supporting local journalism. Subscribers: log in for access to your daily ePaper and premium newsletters.
Thank you for supporting in-depth local journalism with your subscription to the Journal-News. Get more news when you want it with email newsletters just for subscribers. Sign up here.