Brooke “Skylar” Richardson, right, talks to attorney Charles H. Rittgers in the courtroom before closing arguments in her trial at Warren County Common Pleas Court Thursday, September 12, 2019. The 20-year-old is accused of killing and burying her baby in the backyard of her Carlisle home. Richardson was charged with aggravated murder, involuntary manslaughter, gross abuse of a corpse, tampering with evidence and child endangerment in the death of her newborn infant. The judge dismissed the tampering with evidence charge Monday after arguments from both sides. She faces the possibility of life in prison. NICK GRAHAM/JOURNAL-NEWS/POOL
Photo: NICK GRAHAM/JOURNAL-NEWS/POOL
Photo: NICK GRAHAM/JOURNAL-NEWS/POOL

Richardson not guilty of murder, most serious charged

The 20-year-old woman accused of killing her newborn on May 7, 2017 and burying her in the backyard was convicted of one charge, abuse of a corpse, a fifth-degree felony. She could be sentenced to a maximum of six months in jail, although defense attorneys Charles H. and Charles M. Rittgers are hopeful she will not spend any time incarcerated.

Her bond was revoked until sentencing at 11 a.m. today.

Richardson was in the office of her defense attorneys while the jury deliberated for about four hours before returning the verdict.

The Rittgers said they believed a quick verdict would be in their favor and they were not surprised at the outcome.

The father-and-son attorney team were asked if Richardson was satisfied with the verdicts.

“What do you think? C’mon. Seriously,” Charles H. Rittgers said. “She’s facing life in prison, and she’s now looking at maybe a six-month sentence, maximum. C’mon.”

While taking to local and national media in the lobby of the county justice center, the Rittgers took the prosecution to task for the degree of charges against Richardson and the use of evidence later recanted by the coroner’s office that the remains were charred.

“This (case) was well overcharged from the get-go, and it was so juicy for the government to think that, ‘Oh, not only did she murder her baby but she burned her baby,’ which tainted the whole jury pool, which is exactly what we were afraid of,” Rittgers Sr. said. “Ever since her indictment and ever since that news conference, we thought we were in a hole.”

The attorneys were asked what will happen with Richardson moving forward.

“She has worked in our office since this came up, and hopefully she’ll be able to go to college,” Charles H. Rittgers said.

She started classes and completed one semester at Sinclair Community College, Charles H. Rittgers said.

Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell held a news conference after the Rittgers and said the inability to prove how the baby died likely was the key point for the jury.

“I think unfortunately that probably played a major factor in the outcome we saw today,” Fornshell said.

Two years ago Fornsell said in an interview with this news outlet that he knew the case was challenging because of the lack of forensic evidence that could be gleaned from the body.

During the press conference Thursday, Fornshell was asked about statements he made at a 2017 press conference that prosecutors had evidence the baby’s bones were charred, which the defense is adamant led to Richardson’s indictment.

“I reject the idea that somehow we did anything improper,” Fornshell said.

Fornshell said his office was committed to trying a difficult case because they believed Richardson was guilty.

“I do believe she killed her child,” Fornshell said. “I understand there are proof issues.”

He said later, “That baby deserved for us to go in there and fight.”

The prosecutor said he “gets” why the jury came to the verdict it did, but Richardson’s statements, along with her actions before and after the birth, were evidence of a homicide that some jurors may believe. But the even those jury members must not have been certain beyond a reasonable doubt, he said.

Fornshell said Richardson buried her baby so that evidence could not be taken from the body during scientific examination.

“She accomplished what she intended to do,” he said.

There are a lot of opinions, even in the prosecutor’s office, about how the baby died, Fornshell said.

“But, factually, because she buried the baby and it was in the ground for months, there is no proof,” he said.

Carlisle residents also reacted to the verdict.

“I agree with the verdicts,” said Matt Dupps, a Carlisle resident. “I don’t think the state proved its case that the baby was alive or stillborn. I didn’t think there was enough evidence.”

Another resident, Missy Mays, said she believed Richardson was guilty of the more serious charges.

“I think she got by pretty good,” Mays said. “Kids are educated better today than in years before. There are all kinds of resources and it’s a lame excuse to say there were no other alternatives. There are people out there who can’t have kids that want to have kids. She basically discarded hers like a piece of trash.”

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