Early release denied for Franklin man convicted in son’s scalding death

WARREN COUNTY — A Franklin man who was sent to prison in 2017 for his part in the scalding death of his 4-year-old son has been denied judicial release.

Robert Ritchie, now 37, was the manager of a Dollar General store with no criminal background, when he was sentenced to seven years in prison by Warren County Common Pleas Judge Robert Peeler after a jury found him guilty in August 2017 of involuntary manslaughter.

It was Ritchie’s third trial for the incident that occurred in December 2016 after two mistrials. He faced a maximum of 11 years in prison.

Warren County prosecutors said Ritchie’s inaction resulted in the death of his son, Austin Cooper, after he was severely burned in a bathtub of water by his stepmother, Anna Ritchie.

Ritchie was convicted for not checking on his son for 15 hours after learning the child had been burned severely by his wife.

Anna Ritchie is serving 18 year to life in prison after pleading guilty to murder and other felonies.

At sentencing in October 2017, Ritchie’s attorney Frank Schiavone IV told the judge, “This isn’t a man the court would typically see. He is a gentle giant.” The attorney said Ritchie has lived with “despair and hopelessness” since the death of his son.

Schiavone IV added, “He never thought his wife would murder his child and hide that fact … he knows he can’t bring his son back, your honor.”

Ritchie was not arrested until two months after his son was killed and cooperated with police, the defense attorney said.

In February, Schiavone IV filed a motion asking Peeler to grant Ritchie judicial release after serving more that half of the sentence. He received credit for 241 days served await the outcome of the case.

Schiavone IV said in the motion for release that Ritchie has a supportive family, a home to live in if released and “it is his intention to move on with his life in a positive way.”

Ritchie has been a “model inmate” while in prison and has used the time for self reflection, Schiavone IV said.

“Robert has acknowledged that his actions have caused undue harm to many individuals and he is extremely remorseful. The effect of this conviction has had a profound impact on him, his family and friends. He has taken ownership of his mistakes and is committed to betting his life for himself and for his family,” Schiavone IV wrote.

The attorney requested Peeler release Ritchie and place him on mandatory 5-years post-release control with the understand that if he violates conditions of release, he will go back to prison.

Following a hearing Tuesday, Peeler denied Ritchie’s early release.

“The court finds the defendant is not a good candidate for judicial release,” Peeler said in his short decision.

The Warren County Prosecutor’s Office opposed Ritchie’s release.

“We believe the judge made the appropriate choice in not releasing Mr. Ritchie early from prison,” said Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell.

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