An Ohio jury watched footage Thursday of a former high school cheerleader sobbing during a 2017 interview while admitting she buried her newborn baby.
“I didn’t kill her though,” Brooke Skyler Richardson cried to detectives. “Is that really bad … I didn’t mean any harm to her. Are you going to put me in jail because of that?”
Richardson was an 18-year-old high school senior when she gave birth to a baby daughter in the bathroom of her parents’ home in Carlisle, Ohio. She didn’t tell her family or friends she was pregnant and told no one when she gave birth. Afterward, she buried the newborn between two trees in her family’s backyard.
She’s currently on trial for murder after prosecutors alleged that the baby, later named Annabelle by her family, was born alive and then killed by Richardson.
From the beginning, Richardson, now 20, said although she kept her pregnancy a secret, the infant was deceased upon birth. She said she buried the baby after she was born with her eyes closed and without a heartbeat. Richardson claimed she tried for around an hour to care for the infant, without luck.
Prosecutors showed the jury a 2-hour video, recorded during the first interview Richardson had with investigators. Authorities brought her in for questioning after receiving a tip from her doctor that Richardson admitted she buried the infant.
Lt. John Faine and Officer Katie Gee of the Warren County Sheriff’s Office interviewed the defendant on July 14, 2017. More than two months had passed between the time she buried the baby and the interview.
Richardson: “She’s not breathing, she didn’t have a heartbeat.”
Faine: “Did you ever hear a cry or a whimper?”
(Richardson shakes her head)
Faine: “When you say she didn’t have a heartbeat, did you try to check it?”
Richardson: “I tried to feel it.”
Fanie: “Were her eyes opened or closed?”
Richardson: “They were closed.”
Faine: “OK, can you remember if she still had the umbilical cord attached to her belly button?”
Richardson: “I don’t remember; I’m sorry.”
As the interview continued, Richardson admitted to using a shovel to dig a shallow grave, where she buried Annabelle.
Richardson: “I just got a shovel and I just put a little hole in my backyard and put her in it.”
Richardson said she acted alone when she buried the baby, but the question still remained as to whether the baby was born alive.
“I promise I didn’t try to kill her,” Richardson cried.
As CrimeOnline previously reported, on Wednesday morning, Assistant Warren County Prosecutor Steven Knippen told the jury that 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.
“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 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, and only after he discovered her pregnancy during a checkup.
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.”
Rittgers retorted 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, hours after going to prom with her boyfriend, Brandon, Richardson Brooke gave birth alone in the night.
With no witnesses, there was no way to determine if Richardson told the truth about her daughter being stillborn. A coroner couldn’t determine a cause of death. Yet, prosecutors insisted that 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 on Wednesday, arguing that Richardson never killed her child since the child was stillborn.
Knippen argued that Richardson 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 the baby’s whereabouts.
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.”
Check back for further details.
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[Feature Photo: Brooke Skyler Richardson via AP/Cara Owsley/The Cincinnati Enquirer, Pool]