A third day of testimony in the trial of Brooke Skylar Richardson, the prosecution and defense questioned several witnesses focusing on a key point: Did she burn her baby?
Richardson, now 20, is charged with aggravated murder, involuntary manslaughter, child endangering, abuse of corpse and tampering with evidence for the crimes that allegedly occurred in May 2017.
The day started with testimony about the baby’s autopsy by Dr. Susan Brown, a forensic pathologist for the Montgomery County Coroner's Office.
“Nothing that I can say just by looking at the bones that there was a live birth,” Brown testified.
However, Brown said that she made a homicide determination based on the totality of the investigation.
She said the cause of death for the baby is “homicidal violence,” but the exact cause of death cannot be determined because of the condition of the remains.
On cross examination, she said she cannot determine if the baby suffered injuries before death or if she was stillborn, based on the remains. Defense attorney Charles H. Rittgers questioned Brown about a colleague’s changing opinion about whether the baby had charred remains or was burned. The colleague later changed an opinion and said the baby wasn’t burned.
Rittgers pressed Brown about whether she ignored or didn’t include evidence that the baby was stillborn.
Dr. Krista Latham of the University of Indianapolis, a forensic anthropologist, was then called by the prosecution. She did a second evaluation of the baby's remains and testified about what remains she received.
“I didn't find any trauma that could have contributed to the death of the individual," Latham said.
Dr. William "Kim" Brady, a fetal medical specialist, was called after a lunch break. He said he estimated Richardson’s baby was 32 weeks at birth.
Brady was asked about the conditions Richardson described about her birth and asked medical questions related to those scenarios.
Heading into today, the jury was also expected to view a video of Richardson’s second interview with police, which is a key in the case. That will not happen today because of time constraints.
After a late start Thursday due a defense attorney with a “personal family issue,” jurors watched a two-hour interrogation video of Richardson in July 2017 after doctors called police to say she told them she delivered a stillborn baby girl alone and buried her in the backyard.
In that video, an emotional Richardson denied hurting the baby. She sobbed, saying “I didn’t kill her,” and “I never meant to hurt her,” multiple times.
“The second interrogation of Sklyar, that is what the entire case is about,” attorney Charles M. Rittgers said on the trial’s first day.
There were six days between interrogations, he said.
After a prosecution doctor said the bones were burned and charred, “they (police) were told to go get a confession that she burned her baby and the baby was born alive,” Rittgers’ Jr. said.
In the second interrogation, which Rittgers Jr. said used evidence that was later recanted, “they broke Skylar down. (They) told her this is a medical certainty that there is burning in this case. You will be able to see with your own eyes that she is utterly confused by this conversation.
“And they say, ‘Look Skylar,’ as they hold her hand and pretend to her friend, ‘Look, it will be much better if you just say you cremated your child as opposed to throwing her in the middle of a fire.”