The first of what is expected to be at least two national news shows focusing on the Brooke Skylar Richardson case aired Saturday on “48 Hours” and focused on what the 20-year-old’s parents had to say about the two-year court drama that ended earlier this month with their daughter being acquitted of killing her newborn.
The hour-long show hosted by correspondent Erin Moriarty, who was in the courtroom for much of the trial, was titled “The case against Brooke Skylar Richardson.”
It featured a summary of much of the evidence presented during the nearly two-week trial that ended Sept. 13 in Warren County Common Pleas Court.
Richardson was shown prominently in photos and video inside the family’s Carlisle home, but she was not interviewed on advice of her defense attorneys Charles H. and Charles M. Rittgers because she is on three years of probation after being convicted by the jury of abuse of corpse.
The former high school cheerleader, who told police she gave birth alone to a stillborn girl on May 7, 2017, then buried the baby she named “Annabelle” in the backyard, was not convicted of aggravated murder, involuntary manslaughter or child endangering.
Prosecutors maintained the baby was born alive before Richardson killed her and buried the body to get rid of evidence. The remains were not discovered until months later when police were notified by a doctor who questioned Richardson about her baby’s whereabouts when she returned for birth control.
MORE ON THE SENTENCING
Scott Richardson, Richardson’s father, testified as a character witness at trial. But the show was the first time Kim Richardson, Richardson’s mother, spoke publicly about her daughter’s eating disorder. She said she did not know her daughter was pregnant and discussed the toll the case has taken on the family.
“In some ways, this is like kind of the Salem witch trials,” Moriarty said to Kim Richardson.
“Yes. Very,” Kim Richardson said. “… Every move we make, everything we do, we’re judged, we’re followed, stalked … We were crucified. And that’s putting it mildly.”
She said people took turns sitting in front of the house to watch the family and there were threats.
“People would claim to know us. … They would take any picture that they could find of Skylar and they would paste pictures of babies’ faces in it … they found a picture of her with a shovel. And they posted some little baby’s face in it,” Kim Richardson said.
MORE ON THE VERDICTS
The “48 Hours” piece also discussed challenges in the case that made a conviction difficult. Prosecutors could not determine from the remains if the baby was born alive or how she died. But there were interrogation tapes of Skylar Richardson in which she made some admissions during intense questioning by Warren County Sheriff’s detectives.
The show also featured the fact that a forensic anthropologist originally said the baby’s bones were charred, but she later recanted her findings.
“And now, every doctor in the case, including the state’s own doctor — agree that that was a false opinion,” Charles M. Rittgers said in the show.
The defense team says the prosecution’s case was based on admissions from Skylar herself, which they say were coerced by police.
“It is my opinion Skylar suffers from a mental disorder that predisposes her to compliance with people in authority. … What stands out to me … about what transpired in the interrogation was a clear sense of intimidating – attempting to convince Skylar to implant a memory … that would incriminate her,” defense witness Dr. Stuart Bassman testified.
In the “48 Hours” interview, former Warren County Sheriff’s Lt. John Faine said, “I don’t feel that there was something so powerful or the strong coercion that people are alluding to that’s going to get someone to admit to do things that didn’t happen.
Richardson’s parents confirmed in the “48 Hours” interview that Richardson was offered a plea deal before the trial.
According to the parents, in July 2019, the state approached the Rittgers team with a plea offer.
“The prosecutor told Charlie … “I will take aggravated murder off if you plea to the rest of them” … which still could have been 15 years,” Scott Richardson said in the interview.
It was a decision that Skylar Richardson made, according to her parents.
“It was a Sunday morning … and she woke up and I can still see her sitting on the couch … and she goes, ‘I’m not going to plea to something that I didn’t do.’ And, in my heart I got sick … but it has to be her decision. End of day, she has to live with this,” Kim Richardson said in the interview.
The show ended with Kim Richardson showing Moriarty an angel in the backyard, marking where the baby was buried.
“She did what she thought she needed to do. Maybe, outside looking in, that was wrong, but in her mind, she just delivered a stillborn baby. … She gently laid the baby down in the ground. … She didn’t have a casket … She buried the baby and laid a flower over top. She put a vase as a marker. You can see it from her window,” Scott Richardson said.
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