Ohio woman avoids prison, 20, is sentenced to three years probation for burying her newborn baby in her backyard – Skylar Richardson apologized to the infant’s father’s family in court
Former cheerleader Skylar Richardson was sentenced to three years probation on Friday
Before sentencing Brooke Skylar Richardson, 20, apologized to the infant’s father’s family
Brooke Skylar Richardson, 20, was sentenced to three years probation on Friday
She had been facing a year behind bars on one count of gross abuse of a corpse for burying her baby in her backyard
In May 2017, she buried her baby in her backyard after giving birth in secret inside her family home in Carlisle Ohio
Richardson claimed the baby was born dead but prosecutors accused her of killing the infant and setting her on fire
They based their claims on recanted hypothesis from a pathologist and a confession from the teen that her lawyers say was coerced
On Friday judge Donald Oda who said he always thought of the case as one of ‘two little girls,’ said the defendant, because she was a first time offender, met the requirements for probation
Richardson in a dramatic decision was acquitted of murder, manslaughter and child endangerment on Thursday
Brooke Skylar Richardson, [photo], buckled in tears, as did her mother behind her, and fell into the arms of one of her attorneys as the ‘not guilty’ verdicts were read out on Thursday. The 20-year-old had been facing life in prison if convicted of all the charges
Cheerleader Brooke Skylar Richardson, who buried her baby in her backyard after giving birth in secret, dodged a major bullet and walked free from court on Friday with a three year probation sentence after offering a groveling apology to the baby’s father’s family.
Richardson was acquitted of murdering the baby on Thursday after a dramatic trial in Lebanon, Ohio, but she was convicted of gross abuse of a corpse, a felony which carries a maximum prison sentence of one year.
In May 2017, then 18-year-old high school senior Richardson, gave birth in the middle of the night on the toilet of her family home and then buried the infant – who she called Annabelle – in her backyard.
She was caught two months later after confessing to a gynecologist during a checkup, seeking birth control pills. He tipped off authorities.
Prosecutors said she murdered Annabelle but she she claims the baby was a stillborn.
A jury bought her version of the birthing and after just three hours on Thursday, acquitted her on aggravated murder and manslaughter charges.
Because Skylar, 20, was a first-time offender, the judge Donald Oda sentenced her to probation for the gross abuse of corpse charge but scolded her ‘grotesque disregard for life’ and said her baby would be alive today if she had made different choices.
Skylar spoke for the first time throughout the trial before being sentenced.
She apologized to the baby’s father’s mother who had spoken moments earlier on behalf of prosecutors to ask for a harsher sentence.
The baby’s father was Trey Johnson, a teenager she’d had a fling with in 2016.
Johnson never knew she was pregnant and only learned the baby was his after his mother read it on a Facebook group, three months after Skylar’s July 2017 arrest.
‘I would do anything and above that you ask and I understand. I just wanted to say how sorry I was.
‘I can sometimes be selfish, but I would like to think that I’ve become better in the knowledge that I’ve upset everyone and hurt so many people with what I’ve done.
I’ve upset everyone and hurt so many people with what I’ve done. I’m forever sorry
Skylar Richardson: ‘I’m forever sorry,’ she said. She then turned to the baby’s paternal grandmother and said: ‘I’m so sorry.’
Turning back to the judge, she finished her plea for leniency with: ‘I’m really sorry and I understand. Thank you.’
Trey’s mother, Tracy Johnson, fought tears as she described their ‘grief and loss’.
She said she would have raised Annabelle as her own but had never been given the chance and that Skylar’s decisions ‘shattered and devastated’ their family.
‘As we live with our grief and loss, she can now live knowing that her selfish decision was not her only choice. She had a way out.
‘Not only have I lost my first grandchild, but my baby has lost his first child. Skylar had no intention of ever letting us know,’ she said.
Slap on the wrist: Judge Donald Oda in handing a three-year probation to a mother who disposed of her newborn in a particularly inhumane manner told the defendant that she showed a ‘grotesque disregard for life’. He also said he had a daughter her age and a granddaughter the age her baby would be today
Judge Oda agreed to release the baby’s skeletal remains – which have been held as evidence since they were excavated in July 2018 – to Skylar’s family but said she must give the baby’s father’s family access to them.
They said they have a spot for her in their family burial plot.
Skylar’s father also asked the judge for leniency before she was sentenced. He said he was concerned about her health and that she had a severe eating disorder.
Skylar’s attorneys said her weight had dropped to just 89lbs throughout the trial and that she needed to seek care.
‘She is down to 89lbs. 89lbs!
‘She’s losing her hair,’ he said, adding that she had to be hospitalized once during the trial because her potassium levels had dropped so drastically.
Judge Oda said he had a daughter Skylar’s age and a granddaughter the age Annabelle would be today.
‘We’ve been living with this case for two years.
‘I’ve always sort of thought of this case as a story of two little girls – Skylar Richardson and Annabelle Richardson.
‘I have a daughter your age and I have a granddaughter the age Annabelle would be now.
‘In all of the mess we have in this case, what often gets overlooked is just how precious life is.
Brooke Skylar Richardson in court supported by her father Scott Richardson, who asked the judge for leniency before she was sentenced
‘Your life. Annabelle’s life. It should be protected and guarded in all respects.
‘I have reviewed all of the expert reports. I firmly believe, I know in my heart, that if you would have made different decisions, Annabelle would be here today. That might be difficult for you to hear.
‘Some people are inclined to think, “Well this is America, we kill unborn babies here everyday.” Your choices, before birth, during birth and after, show a grotesque disregard for life,’ Judge Oda told Richardson.
‘I don’t look at it that way. I think your choices, before birth, during birth and after, show a grotesque disregard for life.’
He also spoke about how the case had divided the community and the extra steps he took to afford both sides transparency.
‘This has been an extraordinarily high profile case. Lots of people in the community are talking about this case.
‘Everybody has an opinion on the case, everybody in Warren County has the court TV app on their phone now.
‘Prior to the case, the court took a cooperative effort with our friends in the media to make sure the evidence was available for everyone to see.
‘I allowed cameras in the courtroom…we even drilled a hole in the side of the building so we could run the wires out to the van.’
Richardson gave birth two days after this prom photo was taken. Despite having a baby bump, no one in her family or group of friends admitted knowing she was pregnant. She had not informed them either
Prosecutors showed the jury this photograph of the infant’s skeletal remains after they were dug up from the family’s yard
Since July 2017, Skylar has spent seven days in custody. On Thursday, Skylar wept as the verdict was read out in court and told her parents as she was led away in handcuffs afterwards ‘I love you’.
Her mother Kim whispered back to her: ‘We love you baby… it’ll be OK.’ She spent the night in jail before being sentenced on Friday morning.
In May 2017, Skylar gave birth in the middle of the night to a baby girl she called Annabelle.
She told no one that she was pregnant and her family says they could not tell because her weight fluctuated so much as it was.
Skylar said she gave birth to a stillborn on the toilet in the upstairs bathroom of her family home in Carlisle, Ohio.
She buried the baby afterwards in her backyard and was caught two months later when she tearfully confessed to a gynecologist what she had done.
Prosecutors believe the baby was born alive and that Skylar killed her because she did not want her to intervene with her ‘perfect life’.
They also claimed that she set fire to it, initially basing the allegation on the finding from a pathologist who said the bones – once they had been excavated – looked burned.
The pathologist later recanted her claim but before she did, detectives interviewed Skylar for a second time.
During that interview she confessed to ‘trying to cremate her a little’ after being told by them repeatedly that they ‘knew she did something with fire’.
After Richardson was convicted of gross abuse of a corpse, a felony which carries a maximum prison sentence of one year on Thursday, she turned to her parents who reassured her: ‘We love you baby, it’ll be OK’
The dazed former cheerleader muttered to herself ‘OK..OK..OK’ as she was led away in handcuffs after her conviction on Thursday
Skylar’s attorneys argued that the confession was coerced. She had denied burning the baby or harming it several times in that interview and during her first, two-hour interview where she said the baby was still born.
On Thursday, both prosecutors and defense attorneys presented their closing arguments.
Prosecutors said it was ‘convenient’ for her to have given birth to a dead baby and asked jurors not to believe her.
‘All of the stars did not just align for her to have a stillborn child that she didn’t want, told no one about, made no preparations for and concealed and buried her in the backyard, all so that she could maintain the appearance and image of her perfect life.
‘That’s ridiculous,’ one of the prosecutors said.
They also referred back to a text message Skylar sent her mother in the hours after she delivered the baby where she said she was happy to have her ‘belly back’.
The message read: ‘I’m literally speechless (sic) with how happy am… I am literally so excited now just for dinner to wear something cute yayyyy my belly is back and now I’m takin(sic) this opportunity to make it amazing.’
Callous indifference: Prosecutors shared photos of the baby’s grave and her bones in their closing arguments and also included the text, the smiling Skylar sent her mother about her belly being ‘back’ in the hours after she gave birth
The jury deliberated for three hours then returned two questions to the court.
They asked: ‘Can we please have a simplified definition of abuse of a corpse’ and ‘Is it against the LAW to bury a body in your yard without knowledge.’
The judge referred them to earlier instructions.
On Wednesday, as the defense rested its case, they called on a psychologist who had treated Skylar when she was younger to testify.
He said that she had been sexually abused as a 12-year-old boy a ‘boy’ she trusted and ‘looked up to’ and that it had given her a personality disorder.
The personality disorder, he said, fed her anorexia and made her eager to please.
Richardson is seen [right], with her then boyfriend Brandon Saylor on May 5, before they went to prom – two days before she gave birth. Saylor is was not the baby’s father. She was already pregnant before they pair began dating
‘Skylar shared with me, when she was 12 or so, she was having insecurity about her appearance, whether she would be liked, whether she would be accepted, typical behavior… so a boy started showing her attention, a boy that Skylar looked up to, who Skylar admired.
‘She began to respond, and then he began to abuse her. He began to abuse her sexually,’ Dr. Stuart Bassman said.
He went on to say that as a result of the incident and the subsequent ‘disorder’, she was ‘unable to defend herself’.
Prosecutors objected to the testimony, claiming it was irrelevant.
Other witnesses called to the stand were high school teachers at her school who said she often sat with autistic children at lunch so that they did not have to eat alone, and her classmates who say she was so meek at school that they had to defend her from bullies.
‘I’ve never even seen Skylar be mean to another human being she would never hurt another human being, especially her own baby,’ one teenage girl said.
Prosecutors said Richardson seen [arriving court with her parents in 2017], did not want a baby to intervene with her ‘perfect life’
Skylar Richardson, aged 17, conceived Annabelle in August 2016 after a brief fling with another teen, Trey Johnson.
She says she did know that she was pregnant until April 2017, long after she had broken up with Johnson, during a visit to a gynecologist to obtain birth control pills.
The doctors told her she had around 10 weeks to deliver the baby, but 11 days later, she have birth at around 3am in her family home.
Skylar did not tell anyone in the 11 days between the two incidents that she was pregnant. She convinced her mother, who received an email which referred to her being pregnant, that it was a mistake and started taking birth control pills.
She said later that she did not know what she would do when the baby was born and that she ‘didn’t think about it’.
After giving birth to the baby, Skylar dug her a shallow grave in her family’s yard and buried it, marking the spot with flowers.
She then returned to the gynecologist, looking for more birth control pills, and confessed to what she had done when asked by the doctor what became of her pregnancy.
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