On Sept. 12, Brooke Skylar Richardson, a 20-year-old from Carlisle, was found not guilty on charges of aggravated murder, involuntary manslaughter and child endangering of her newborn child, the birth taking place in May 2017.
Richardson was charged with gross abuse of a corpse after admitting to burying the baby in her backyard and sentenced to three years of probation. She faced serving life in prison if found guilty on the above charges.
Prosecutors believe Richardson killed the baby after birth and buried it in her backyard to save her image before she graduated from high school and started her college career, as they claim the baby was unwanted. The defense’s case was that the child was stillborn and died during childbirth, and in the confusion and terror Richardson panicked.
She didn’t learn of her pregnancy until April 27, 2017 during a visit to the gynecologist.
“Upon learning she was pregnant, Brooke burst into tears and told her doctor that she could not have this child and that she could not tell anyone about being pregnant,” Warren County Assistant Prosecutor Julie Kraft said, according to Fox 19′s video footage of the trial.
Kraft also showed the crowd text messages sent by Richardson to her mom
Richardson did not tell anyone she was pregnant and didn’t show a baby bump due to a history of eating disorders causing her weight to fluctuate. When her doctors contacted her, wanting to schedule follow-up prenatal care visits, she did not respond.
Around the 38-40 week mark of her pregnancy, she gave birth in her bathroom and buried the child in the backyard.
Police started an investigation in July 2017, after receiving a call from a doctor’s office about a possible stillborn baby. The remains were dug up and Richardson was interrogated on July 14 and July 20.
The second interrogation occurred after a forensic pathologist told authorities of her belief that there was charring on the bones of the child, suggesting that the baby was burned.
In this interrogation, Richardson admitted to trying to “cremate the baby just a little” with a lighter. She also stated that she thought she might have heard the baby gargle and seen it move a little.
The pathologist later recanted her opinion and during the trial, there was no evidence of charring shown.
The validity of Richardson’s confessions during the second interrogation was questioned by the defense, as there was no attorney present and Richardson has a history of submitting to authority attributed to a “personality disorder” obtained after she was sexually abused by a boy at the age of 12.
Also in question were the methods of interrogation by the officers. They told Richardson that she wasn’t in trouble, but they knew she wasn’t telling them everything.
They said that her child was being examined and withheld by doctors, knowing the family desired giving it a proper burial. They stated that she would not get her child back unless she told the truth.
Defense attorneys attest that the baby was pale and lifeless upon delivery. She wasn’t breathing and the umbilical cord was not attached to the placenta.
“We may never know the medical cause of the baby’s death,” said Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell at a press conference after the indictment was announced in 2017, reported by Dayton Daily News.“Certainly it would be substantially easier if we could come in and say what the medical cause of death is, but that was made impossible or nearly impossible when she burned and buried the body.”
The jury ultimately reached a verdict of not guilty after four hours of deliberation, citing an inability to determine the cause of death due to a lack of evidence.
“I just wanted to say how sorry I was,” Richardson said during her sentencing hearing on Sept. 13, as reported by the Washington Post. “I can sometimes be selfish, but I would like to think that I’ve become better in the knowledge that I’ve upset everyone and hurt so many people with what I’ve done. And I’m forever sorry.”
Warren County Common Pleas Judge Donald Oda II chastised her for showing “grotesque disregard for life.”
“I firmly believe –– in fact I know, Miss Richardson, in my heart –– that if you would have made different decisions in this case, Annabelle would be here today,” Oda said. “And I know that may be difficult for you to hear. Some people are inclined to think to themselves, ‘This is America; we kill unborn babies every day.’ But I don’t think of it that way.”
Fornshell and Lt. John Faine, the lead detective in the case, hold firm in their beliefs that the baby was killed after birth in a desperate attempt to save face.
Yet, Richardson will walk without facing jail time and the family has already bought a funeral plot to give the baby a proper burial. The remains will be returned to the family, as ordered by Oda.