Internet searches and a text message sent from accused killer, Brooke Skylar Richardson, to her mother after she delivered her infant girl in 2017 was one of the focal points during opening statements Wednesday morning as her murder trial kicked off.
While talking to a jury inside a Warren, Ohio, courtroom Wednesday morning, Assistant Warren County Prosecutor Steven Knippen shared an alleged internet search carried out by a then 18-year-old Richardson.
Richardson, now 20, is on trial facing charges of abuse of a corpse, aggravated murder, endangering children, involuntary manslaughter, and tampering with evidence. She’s accused of killing her newborn shortly after giving birth, and burying the baby without seeking help or telling anyone.
According to Knippen, Richardson searched online for “how to get rid of a baby” while pregnant. She’s also accused of sending a text message to her mother, relieved her “belly is back,” shortly after she gave birth.
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“I am literally speechless with how happy I am my belly is back OMG,” Richardson allegedly texted, referring to weight loss.
Defense attorney Charles M. Rittgers argued that Richardson explained she did one search while looking for self-abortion information. She reportedly claimed she never did further research after the initial search.
“Those texts that we now see after May 7 … were Skylar focusing on the only thing she thought she could control at the time, which was her body,” Rittgers retorted.
Knippen argued that the only person who knew Richardson was pregnant was Dr. Andrew at Hilltop OBGYN. Knippen said Richardson’s mother took the girl to the doctor to see about birth control pills in April 2017, but when Dr. Andrew told Richardson she was pregnant, she begged and pleaded with him to not tell her parents.
“She kept repeating she can’t have this baby and couldn’t tell anyone she was pregnant,” Knippen said. “She never scheduled that follow-up appointment. Staff began trying to reach out to her, trying to get her back in….. Brooke never returned those calls.”
Knippen argued that Richardson was told she had around 10 more weeks into the pregnancy and thought she had additional time for prenatal care. However, the doctor’s estimate was apparently off. She gave birth to a full-term baby 11 days later.
Richardson’s ex-boyfriend, Trey Johnson, 21, took the stand and said the defendant never told him she was pregnant, never told him she gave birth and never told him the baby died. He testified he didn’t know anything about the situation until a detective approached after the infant died and asked him for a buccal swab.
Kippen said Richardson’s relationship with Johnson was short-lived. They dated around a month or so before she reportedly broke up with him, blocked him on social media, and began dating another boy, Brandon.
The buccal swab confirmed Johnson was the father.
How did the baby die?
On May 5, 2017, Brooke gave birth alone in her bathroom, hours after going to prom with her boyfriend, Brandon.
From the beginning, Richardson claimed her daughter, who the family later named Annabelle, was stillborn. A coroner was unable to determine a cause of death, but prosecutors said Richardson killed and buried her baby in an attempt to move on with her life without the responsibilities of caring for an infant.
“This case was about a massive rush to judgment,” Rittgers told the jury, arguing that Richardson never killed her child since the child was stillborn.
Richardson said she cared for the baby girl for around an hour, but the infant wouldn’t open her eyes. She claimed she then buried baby Annabelle in her family’s backyard between two trees, according to court documents.
Knippen said she did nothing at all that would suggest she tried to care for the infant.
“Upon going into labor, she didn’t call 911, she didn’t try to go to the hospital, she didn’t run downstairs to her mother and father,” Knippen argued. “She didn’t wake up her brother who was just across the hall.”
“Even when confronted with the birthing process itself, [she was] determined to keep her secret……Finally, when the moment of truth was upon her, she took her newborn’s life and disposed of that body in the yard behind their home.”
Authorities eventually found out about the baby when Richardson allegedly confessed after her doctor pressed her on where her infant was.
The prosecution also alleged that Richardson tried to burn the infant after forensic anthropologist Dr. Elizabeth Murray previously indicated that the baby’s bones looked “charred.” Murray later recanted her assessment after noticing the bones looked “so different from my July visit to my August visit.”
Rittgers argued that although Dr. Murray told authorities she changed her assessment, police and the prosecution largely ignored her.
“What happens when that doctor who made this horrible mistake changes her mind and tells everyone I was wrong, the bones weren’t burnt? What happened? The police didn’t hit a reset button. The prosecutors didn’t hit a reset button. … They disregard all truth that does not fit into their story. And that’s why we’re here today.”
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[Feature Photo: Cara Owsley/The Cincinnati Enquirer via AP, Pool]