“As bad as these pictures are, probably the most horrifying picture that we have is not terribly graphic,” Fornshell said as the final photo was displayed.
In that photo, Ritchie’s fingernail marks can be seen on the boy’s upper arms, an indication that she held him down as “he fought and screamed to get out of scalding hot water,” Fornshell said.
Ritchie offered an apology before sentencing, saying, “I am deeply sorry for what happened. I know no amount of I’m sorry can bring him back.”
Defense attorney Seth Cantwell told the judge that Ritchie was not a monster or evil but that “she made a terrible series of mistakes that day.”
Judge Robert Peeler had strong words for Ritchie before giving her the maximum sentence.
“This is incomprehensible,” he said. “It is just beyond something I can find words for.”
Then he added, “none of us are God and she will have to deal with that at the appropriate time.”
The fatal child abuse came because Ritchie resented her stepson, according to Fornshell.
“Anna Cooper resented Austin Cooper … she could no longer go on as many dates with her husband,” he said.
Bath time, which the young body disliked, became a focus of that resentment and Ritchie purposely held the child in water that she knew was scalding, Fornshell said.
When she saw the child’s skin floating in the tub and his feet bleeding, Ritchie put him in pajamas and socks so that his blood would not stain the bedding, he said.
“He cried in his bed for two to three hours,” Fornshell said.
Neither Ritchie nor her husband, Robert, checked on the child until 16 hours later, but by that time he had died from shock.
Robert Ritchie, 31, is facing charges of involuntary manslaughter and felony child endangering for allegedly failing to obtain medical treatment for his son.
Sheri Gredig, Austin’s maternal grandmother, spoke in court prior to the sentencing.
“She took something from me that I will never get back,” Gredig said. “That was not punishment she gave him, it was an evil death sentence.”
Gredig stood just a few feet from Ritchie in the courtroom as she spoke.
“She has no remorse, she doesn’t feel guilty for anything she did, she was jealous because he wasn’t hers,” Gredig said. “She is just evil … she is evil. She can’t even look at me.”