Franklin father’s retrial for scalding death begins

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

The second trial for Robert Ritchie has started in Warren County Common Pleas Court.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

The second trial of Robert Ritchie, the Franklin father charged in connection with his 4-year-old son’s scalding death began Monday in Warren County Common Pleas Court.

Ritchie, 31, is charged with felony child endangering and involuntary for allegedly not checking on his son for 15 hours after learning he had been burned severely by his wife, Anna Ritchie.

In December, a mistrial was declared in Ritchie’s first trial after a jury could not reach a verdict.

Ritchie was sitting with his parents early outside Judge Robert Peeler’s courtroom waiting for round two of his day in court. He has been free on his own recognizance since the hung jury. Ritchie was behind bars in the county jail from May to the end of November awaiting his first trial.

The jury of six women and six men were selected before lunch, quicker than the first trial, and opening statements began.

Assistant Warren County Prosecutor Julie Kraft told the jury that Anna told her husband through text messages and in person when he returned to their Boulder Drive apartment on March 15 that Austin had been burned by water in the tub.

But Robert Ritchie did not rush home from work or even check on his child when he returned home, according to prosecutors.

“What he did do is check the water heater,” Kraft said. And he turned down the water heater because Anna said the water was too hot.

When Anna Ritchie left for Bible study, Robert Ritchie still did not check on the child, prosecutors said.

“If Robert Ritchie had checked on his son, there is a 99 percent chance Austin would be alive today,” Kraft said to the jury.

“Not once did he poke his head in the door to see of his need for food or drink ….,” Kraft said.

Defense attorney Frank Schiavone IV told the jury that Austin was a victim of homicide.

“On March 15, Austin Cooper was murdered by Anna Ritchie,” Schiavone IV said, adding evidence will prove that she then hid her actions from her husband.

Schiavone IV said the evidence will show Anna Ritchie put long pants and socks on Austin to cover up what she had done to him. The defense attorney said Anna Ritchie did not confess to her husband that she had killed the child.

“The evidence will show that Mr. Ritchie married a murder,” Schiavone IV said, adding the jury would hear from Anna in police interrogation tapes. He also told them a time of death for Austin will not be presented by the prosecution.

“That is very important,” Schiavone IV said.

The first three prosecution witnesses were police and firefighters who responded to the Ritchie residence after Robert called 911.

In the 911 tape played for the jury, Robert Ritchie told the dispatcher “he is stiff as a board,” when she asked him if he wanted to try to do CPR on the boy.

Franklin Police Sgt. Shannon Cotton testified he was the first to arrive. He said he saw Austin in his crib and was able to see burns on the child’s legs.

Cotton said Robert Ritchie made a phone call to Anna, who had left the house early, and said “Anna you need to get home now. He’s dead. He’s dead.”

Capt. Joshua Reed of the Franklin Fire Department said he too saw what appeared to be burn marks on Austin’s legs but only after he pulled back a blanket covering the child. Austin also had marks on his arms, he said.

While Reed, Cotton and Franklin Police Lt. Gerald Massey all believed Austin was dead at the scene, hospital officials requested he be transported.

Defense attorneys pointed out during cross examination, that officers did not take photos of Austin at the scene, thus there is no documentation of how he appeared when found dead

The trial continues Tuesday morning.

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