A jury in one of Warren County’s most anticipated trials in recent memory faces an important question: Was Brooke Skylar Richardson’s baby stillborn, or was she killed?
Richardson’s trial, which is getting national attention, is set to begin with jury selection on Tuesday in Warren County Common Pleas Court.
Richardson, now 20, was indicted on charges of aggravated murder, involuntary manslaughter, child endangering, abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence. She could serve 20 years to live in prison of convicted for aggravated murder.
The trial begins with jury selection from a pool of 70 prospective jurors and is scheduled to last three weeks. Richardson has been free on bond since arraignment on the indictment in August 2017.
A call in July 2017 from a doctor’s office to Carlisle police about a possible stillborn baby led investigators to Richardson’s Eagle Ridge Drive. Remains of a baby were found in the backyard of the residence, where the then-18-year-old high school senior lived with her parents and brother.
MORE ON THE CASE
Richardson, a cheerleader who planned to attend the University of Cincinnati, gave birth on or about May 6 or 7, 2017, just days after her senior prom, then buried the baby and apparently told no one, investigators have said.
The defense team of Charles H. and Charles M. Rittigers say the baby was stillborn and the scared teen, who also suffered from an eating disorder, did nothing to harm the child. She took the the stillborn child and buried her, they say.
If the baby was stillborn, did Richardson break any laws by burying the infant? That’s a question the defense will likely raise at trial.
Warren County prosecutors say the baby was alive when she was born full-term at about 38 weeks to 40 weeks. But the cause of death remains a question.
“We may never know the medical cause of the baby’s death,” Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell said at a press conference after the indictment was announced. “Certainly it would be substantially easier if we could come in and say what the medical cause of death is, but that was made impossible or nearly impossible when she burned and buried the body.”
Richardson was also indicted on a much lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter for the alleged death of the baby. Fornshell said the charges all come down to interpretation of the evidence by a jury.
“So, depending on how you interpret the evidence, you can assign different levels of mental culpability to action or inaction,” Fornshell said. “(You can say) I think this was a purposeful killing, I think this was a somebody who at a minimum was reckless in terms of their care, or lack there of, of a newborn child because they did not want the child.”
From the beginning, the defense team said their client did nothing wrong.
Statements Richardson made to doctors and to police during several hours of interrogation are expected to be presented as evidence of homicide.
Those medical records and statements delayed the trial for more than a year as the prosecution and defense battled over whether they would be admissible.
The jury will also see the video interrogation of Richardson on July 14, 2017 and July 20, 2017. Whether or not Richardson testified in her own defense, the jury will get to her her words in video form.
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