Brooke Skylar Richardson changed her story about the death of her baby during a second police interrogation that was played at her high-profile murder trial on Monday, a day during which her account to police and her communication with others was a main focus.
Prosecutors say Richardson finally told the truth, but the defense says detectives coerced a false confession out of a scared 18-year-old Carlisle High School graduate using information a forensic anthropologist later recanted.
Richardson is charged with aggravated murder, involuntary manslaughter, endangering children, tampering with evidence and abuse of a corpse for the incident that occurred in May 2017. Monday was the fifth day of her trial in Warren County Common Pleas Court that has generated national attention.
Richardson, now 20, was not arrested after the first interview with Warren County Sheriff’s detectives on July 14, 2017, after her baby’s remains were unearthed. During that interview, she told detectives her baby whom she named Annabelle was stillborn.
Richardson told investigators she took the baby, retrieved a garden shovel out of the garage, dug a hole and placed the baby in the hole. A flower pot was placed on the grave as a marker. She told no one about the pregnancy before or after the birth, including her parents and the baby’s father.
That version changed on July 20, 2017, when then-Lt. John Faine and Detective Brandi Carter interrogated Richardson.
At times they are sympathetic, telling her that she must have been scared, but that she needs to do the right thing for her baby.
“Do you think I killed her?” Richardson asks the detectives. “Are you going to take me away?” she says in a shaking voice.
Richardson then tells the detectives that maybe the umbilical cord was around the baby’s neck. Richardson said it is possible the baby fell into the water.
“She fell. She might have bumped her head a little,” Richardson says.
The baby was in the toilet about two minutes, Richardson estimated. At the urging of Faine and Carter to tell the truth and put her baby at rest, Richardson continues to whisper answers.
“I don’t think she was breathing and I squeezed her too hard,” Richardson says.
“Do you think that’s when she died?” Carter says.
Richardson answered, “Maybe.”
Then the detectives begin to ask about the possibility that Richardson burned the baby. At the time, they believed the bones of the remains were charred, which was a ruling by a forensic anthropologist who examined the remains. That doctor later recanted her belief that the bones were charred. The defense has argued that investigators were too aggressive in interrogating Richardson the second time because they believed she had burned the baby.
“Tell us about the fire,” Carter says to Richardson.
“What fire … Burn her, I promise anything I didn’t burn her,” Richardson says.
She continues to deny burring the baby when asked about the fire pit, an oven or a microwave.
“And I have given you all the truth,” Richardson says. “I told you about squeezing her and I think I might have killed her.”
But later in the interview, Richardson says she had a lighter and, “I just …”
Carter asks Richardson if her daughter’s remains caught fire. She responds, “maybe a little.”
Richardson says she was able to put the flames out with dirt.
During the second interview, Richardson also tells detectives her baby might have been alive when she was born.
“Maybe a little noise. A gurgle,” she says about the baby at birth.
Then she says she saw the baby’s arms move “maybe a little.”
When detectives pressed her for how long the baby was alive, Richardson responds that it was possibly five minutes.
“Maybe she was alive, I don’t know,” Richardson says.
During the second interview, Richardson sobs and holds Carter’s hand, asking if she is going to jail or prison.
When her parents come into the room before she is arrested, Scott Richardson asks her if she tried to cremate the baby.
Richardson says, “A little. I did it a little.”
Scott Richardson asks his daughter if she delivered a live baby.
“Yeah, I wasn’t really sure. I didn’t think she had a heart beat. Do you still love me?” Richardson answers.
Also testifying on Monday was Brandon Saylor, Richardson’s boyfriend in the winter and spring of 2017. The 21-year-old said he did not know Richardson was pregnant when they went to prom in May 2017. He only learned about it about on television when the remains were recovered.
In the hours after the birth, well before he or anyone knew there was a birth, she texted Saylor: “Ill tell you all about it later but last night was like the worst ever and I didn’t go to sleep till 5:30 but I feel soooooo much better this morning I’m happy.”
The prosecution also showed a series of text messages between Richardson and her mother just before and after the baby was born, talking about getting birth control and weight loss. The jury was again shown a photo of Richardson working out that the gym on the night after giving birth in which she was tracking her weight loss.