‘I was already seen as guilty’: Skylar Richardson, teen cheerleader who buried her newborn, opens up following high-profile murder acquittal

Skylar Richardson, an Ohio teen acquitted for murder after burying her baby girl in her backyard, has opened up for the first time since her acquittal.

Richardson was 17 in 2017 when her doctor told her she was pregnant. Richardson said she was already in her third trimester when she learned she was pregnant and out of fear, kept the pregnancy hidden from family and friends. It’s a decision she now regrets.

“My biggest regret is not having the strength to tell someone that I was pregnant,” Richardson told Cosmopolitan. “I wish I would have done it differently. I’m plagued by guilt every day for not telling someone.”

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Although her doctor told her she had a few months before the baby would arrive, Richardson ended up going into labor within weeks.

On May 5, 2017, she attended prom with her boyfriend, Brandon, who was not the baby’s father. Her relationship with the baby’s father had ended almost as fast as it had started, according to testimony at Richardson’s high-profile trial earlier this year.

Richardson said she ended up leaving prom early because she was not feeling well. The following day, she went into labor. She didn’t tell anyone. Instead, she had the baby, a girl, on the bathroom floor inside her parents’ Carlisle home.

The baby, according to Richardson, was born without a heartbeat. Richardson told the outlet that the baby, who she named Annabelle, was extremely pale and didn’t have an umbilical cord attached. Annabelle was not breathing and never opened her eyes, according to the teen.

After trying unsuccessfully to make the baby breathe, Richardson said she eventually gave up. She wrapped Annabelle in a towel and buried her in the family’s backyard. Without waking her family up, she went back inside and cleaned the bathroom up, then returned to school as if nothing had happened.

Inside, however, Richardson said she was battling depression and guilt.

“I spent a lot of my time depressed,” Richardson told Cosmopolitan. “Every night, I would lie down and wish that I could have died in place of Annabelle.”

Even now, two years later and months after her acquittal, Richardson said she experiences chest pains and panic and finds it hard to sleep. Part of it stems from the nightmare she said lived through after the public condemned her, followed by a murder trial where she heard the prosecutor argue that she tried to burn her baby.

Richardson explained that the detectives who interrogated her pushed her to falsely admit she tried to burn her baby, even referencing the Bible, to get her to cave in.

It worked. Richardson told the detectives she burned her baby’s foot with a lighter but said she knew it wasn’t true. She just wanted to go home. After telling authorities around 15 times she never burned Annabelle, she ended up saying what they wanted to hear.

The defense team said Richardson gave a false confession after insurmountable pressure.

“Inside, I felt like I was dying,” Skylar says. “Very few things have been harder than having to listen to prosecutors allege horrible, unthinkable things of me and put countless photos of my daughter’s bones on a big screen.”

After the trial, Richardson said she applied to over 40 jobs, but no one in her small hometown cared to hire her. Eventually, her defense attorney and his family hired Richardson for general office tasks.

Richardson has been also been actively participating in counseling for an eating disorder.

“I said that if I could survive the trial, I would get all the help I needed. I want to make the best of my life and use my experiences to help in one way or another.”

The verdict, however, didn’t end the hate for Richardson. People still gossip about her and post hateful messages on Facebook groups. Since she decided to stay in her small hometown, people know where to find her. They’re still taking her photo when she leaves her home.

Media outlets across the world covered Richardson’s case, with stories created mostly by what authorities themselves alleged. They not only accused Richardson of burning her baby, but they also claimed the infant had skull fractures and had been born alive.

Prosecutors alleged the motive was all about how she appeared to the public, and that Richardson was “pretty obsessed with external appearances and how she appeared to the outside world.”

Despite the public’s belief of what may have happened, however, a jury only found Richardson guilting of concealing a corpse.

Richardson said she’s now making the best out her days, following the worst time in her life. She recently signed up for paralegal classes and hopes to become a lawyer one day for the Ohio Innocence Project.

“I want to make the best of my life and use my experiences to help in one way or another.”

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[Feature Photo: Brooke Skylar Richardson/The Cincinnati Enquirer via AP, Pool]