A Franklin man was sent to prison Tuesday for his part in the scalding death of his 4-year-old son.
Robert Ritchie, 33, a manager at a Dollar General store with no criminal background, was sentenced to seven years in prison by Warren County Common Pleas Judge Robert Peeler after a jury found him guilty in August of involuntary manslaughter.
It was Ritchie’s third trial for the incident that occurred in December 2016 after two mistrials. He faced a maximum of 11 years in prison.
Warren County prosecutors said Ritchie’s inaction resulted in the death of his son, Austin Cooper, after he was severely burned in a bathtub of water by his stepmother, Anna Ritchie.
Anna Ritchie is serving 18 year to life in prison after pleading guilty to murder and other felonies.
Ritchie’s attorney Frank Schiavone IV told the judge, “This isn’t a man the court would typically see. He is a gentle giant.” The attorney said Ritchie has lived with “despair and hopelessness” since the death of his son.
Schiavone IV added, “He never thought his wife would murder his child and hide that fact … he knows he can’t bring his son back, your honor.”
Ritchie was not arrested until two months after his son was killed and cooperated with police, the defense attorney said.
C0-defense attorney Frank Schiavone III asked the court for justice with mercy.
“Society doesn’t need to be protected from this man,” Schiavone III said.
He also brought up the case of a Mason mother who did not face charges in relation to the death of her 15-month-old daughter inside a parked car outside the Procter & Gamble building in Mason.
“The only difference in this case is there are no charges,” Schiavone III said. “How much do we punish this man for his inaction?”
But Austin Cooper’s maternal grandmother, Sheri Gredig, told Ritchie, “You’re destined for hell and the devil himself.”
Because of Ritchie’s negligence, Gredig said the family is left without Austin’s loving smile.
“We will never watch him grow up. He (Ritchie) took that away from all of us and for that he should receive the maximum sentence possible,” she said.
Assistant Warren County Prosecutor Julie Kraft told the judge the prosecution was asking for the maximum sentence. She said Ritchie still does not believe he is responsible for his son’s death.
Ritchie asked the judge for mercy saying he wanted to honor Austin by becoming a minister.
“I want to do good in this world for my son. Something good has to come from this,” Ritchie said.
Peeler said he did believe Ritchie was sad about his son’s death.
“You did not do this, but you could have prevented it,” Peeler said to Ritchie, asking “why didn’t you check on your son?”
Ritchie will receive prison credit for the 241 days he has already spent in jail since awaiting his first trial and sentencing.
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