A text message Brooke Skylar Richardson sent to her mother after she allegedly delivered and then killed her baby in 2017 was highlighted in opening statements in her trial Wednesday.
Assistant Warren County Prosecutor Steven Knippen told the jury that Richardson sent her mother a text that said, “I am literally speechless with how happy I am my belly is back OMG,” just hours after she is accused of having her baby in secret in her Carlisle home and burying her in the backyard in May 2017.
“Those are the words that Brooke Richardson texted to her mother just hours after she murdered her infant daughter in the middle of the night and buried her lifeless body in the dirt behind their home,” Knippen said.
The opening statements came Wednesday on the second day of Richardson’s trial in Warren County Common Pleas Court. She is charged with aggravated murder, involuntary manslaughter, child endangering, abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence. She could serve a 20 years to life in prison if convicted for aggravated murder.
Richardson, now 20, was a Carlisle High School senior when she had a sexual relationship with a college freshman from West Carrollton in August 2016 and became pregnant, according to prosecutors. While Richardson suspected she may be pregnant, she told no one after she received confirmation in April 2017 when she visited a doctor for birth control.
“Brooke Richardson murdered a baby she didn’t want and never intended to keep. Upon finding out she was pregnant by a boy she wanted nothing to do with, Brooke Richardson burst into tears and told the doctor that she cannot have this baby,” Knippen said during opening statements.
The assistant prosecutor said Richardson did not follow up with prenatal care or make plans for the baby in any way.
“But what we know she did do, by her own admission, was she researched on the internet for, quote, ‘how to get rid of a baby,’” Knippen said.
“She told no one. Instead, shortly after birth, Brooke killed her infant daughter so that no one would ever know that she was pregnant or that she had a child.”
Knippen also pointed to Richardson’s response when a doctor at Hilltop Obstetrics & Gynecology told her she was pregnant.
“She kept repeating she can’t have this baby,” Knippen said.
Richardson’s mother, Kim, was “obsessed with Brooke’s appearance and and was constantly monitoring her weight,” Knippen said, adding Richardson could not “come clean” to her mother.
On the night after Richardson murdered the baby, she went to the gym to work out and started filming her weight loss, Knippen said.
“She went back to her perfect life,” Knippen said.
He again told the jury Richardson could have asked for help from a number of people, including her parents and brother, who where home when she had the baby in bathroom on May 7, 2017.
“But under the darkness of night she delivered the baby all by herself without making a sound,” he said.
He told jurors that Richardson admitted to investigators that the baby was alive for about five minutes and the she might have squeezed her too tight.
But the defense told jurors that Richardson has suffered from an eating disorder for years and thought she had more time to tell her mother about the pregnancy. She buried her stillborn baby rather than throw the body in the trash, defense attorney Charles M. Rittgers said.
“They (the prosecution) suggest Skylar hid her pregnancy because she was evil,” Rittgers said during opening statements. “Skylar is a gentle, kind, loving individual.”
When Richardson went to the doctor, she was told she was 32 weeks pregnant, so she thought she would not deliver for weeks. Instead it was just days after that visit, Rittgers said.
At prom, Richardson began having severe cramps, and in the middle of the night, she delivered a baby on the toilet. She said the baby girl was white, and she did not cut the umbilical cord, Rittgers said.
“She sits down on the bathroom floor half naked … holding the baby, touching her baby. She cries. She names her daughter Annabelle,” Rittgers said. “She goes downstairs and gets a tiny little spade shovel that her mom had in the garage … walks out to the tree line that is visible from her bedroom window, with all the strength she has left, and digs a shallow grave, covers the grave with dirt and drags a flower pot that weighs about 25 pounds over in front of the grave site. From her bedroom she can see that site.”
When law enforcement first interviewed Richardson, she told them she had a baby and she was dead, then she buried her in the backyard.
“There was no arrest,” Rittgers said.
The defense said a mistake by a doctor for the prosecution came next. The doctor said the bones had been burned, which she later recanted.
Rittgers said detectives went back to Richardson to get a confession about the baby being born alive and her burning it.
“To do that they (detectives) make Richardson vulnerable, telling her the doctors are ‘sifting and poking Annabelle’ and that the family won’t get the baby’s remains back,” Rittgers said.
When the police broke her down, Richardson said, “I touched her with lighter and tried to cremate her a bit,” Rittgers said. The attorney added that it is not possible to burn a body in that manner.
The defense saidRichardson’s dramatic weight fluctuation due to her eating disorder made many people around her not think she looked pregnant. The sparkly red dress she wore to prom fit when she was fitted for it in February and when she wore it in May.
Testifying on Wednesday were doctors who saw Richardson when she was told she was pregnant and the father of the baby, Trey Johnson, who confirmed the sexual relationship with her. He said Richardson never informed him she was pregnant, not even after the remains were found.
Dr. Casey Boyce said she confronted Richardson in July 2017 when she came to her office for birth control because she knew a colleague at her office had told her she was pregnant several months before.
“She started crying. She said, ‘I had it alone in my house and I buried it in my backyard,’” the doctor testified.
Boyce said she was in shock and asked more questions, noting labor is painful and traumatic.
Richardson said she buried “everything,” Boyce said. The doctor said she believed Richardson when she told her the baby was born dead.
Dr. William Andrew, who first saw Richardson in April 2017 and told her she was pregnant, said she was very upset with the news.
“She (Richardson) said, ‘I can’t have a baby. I am going to college,” Andrew said.
But the doctor said he did not think she had any intentions of harming the baby.