Cheerleader ‘tried to cremate baby’
WARNING: Sensitive content
A former high school cheerleader accused of killing her daughter and burying her in the backyard "tried to cremate the baby", a court has heard.
Brooke Skylar Richardson is on trial for the "sinister and grotesque" murder of her newborn baby allegedly carried out over "external appearances".
Ms Richardson, now 20, was 18 when she allegedly told a doctor in 2017 that she gave birth to a stillborn baby, who she named "Annabelle", and buried it in the backyard at her parents' home in the village of Carlisle, just north of Cincinnati, US.
Ms Richardson was later charged with aggravated murder, involuntary manslaughter, gross abuse of a corpse, tampering with evidence and child endangering and has pleaded not guilty.
"I tried to cremate the baby," Ms Richardson said after a police interview in 2017.
The footage of the interview hasn't been played in court yet but part of the transcript was read out during Friday's hearing.
The comment was allegedly made by Ms Richardson to her father after police left the interview room but left the cameras rolling. Her legal team argues that she had been broken by police and was just telling them what they wanted to hear.
In court on Friday, photos of the baby's bones and reconstructed skeleton were displayed on a television screen a few feet away from Ms Richardson.
She shook while looking at them, the Cincinnati Enquirer reports.
"I never meant to hurt her," she said in a 2017 police interview.
"I didn't kill her," she said.
"It wasn't alive," she said.
The former Ohio high school cheerleader gave birth in the bathroom at her family home on May 1, 2017. It was just a few days after her senior prom and weeks before she was set to start college. Her parents and friends have said she hid the pregnancy from them.
Assistant Prosecutor Julie Kraft said Ms Richardson didn't tell anyone when she gave birth to her daughter.
"Brooke took her own daughter's life, destroyed all evidence of her birth and buried her in the backyard," Ms Kraft said.
Assistant prosecutor Steven Knippen told the court Ms Richardson allegedly sent text messaged to her mother hours after the child was buried, stating how she was "speechless" to have her body "back", according to a court reporter for Butler County's Journal-News.
"I am literally speechless with how happy I am my belly is back OMG …" the text read.
But suspicion arose when she returned to her doctor for birth control a few weeks later and mentioned she'd buried her daughter's body.
According to her legal team, Ms Richardson kept quiet about her pregnancy because she didn't realise she was due so soon, and her response was normal for a scared teenager.
Defence lawyer Charles M. Rittgers also pointed to inaccuracies in the investigation.
Prosecutors initially reported the body had been burned, but additional forensic analysis concluded it was not.
Mr Rittgers said the state failed to mention a detective in the case wrote in a police report that Ms Richardson touched the baby with a lighter and flames went up to the baby's chest.
"Although they gave a press release about it, but they don't have the guts to come in here right off the bat and say that they were wrong about it," he said.
In opening statements on Tuesday, prosecutors said the evidence would still show that Ms Richardson gave birth alone, buried the baby, disposed of the evidence and kept it a secret from everyone - including her parents.
It was alleged Ms Richardson "purposely" caused the baby's death, saying the family was "obsessed" with external appearances and wanted to prevent a potential interruption of their lives.
According to prosecutors, Ms Richardson had an "extreme" reaction after being told she was pregnant and did not return for follow-up prenatal visits.
Defense Atty Charles M Rittgers "The detective in this case wrote in a police report that Skylar touched a baby with a lighter and the flames, the baby catches on fire, the flames go up to the babies chest. They fail to mention that in the report...(1/2) @WCPO pic.twitter.com/CnUNvc8wLB— Ally Kraemer (@AllyKraemer) September 3, 2019
County prosecutor David Fornshell previously said Ms Richardson and her family had been worried about the community's reaction to her out-of-wedlock pregnancy.
"Skylar and her family, particularly her mother, were pretty obsessed with external appearances and how things appeared to the outside world," he said.
"You have a situation where, you know, she's a cute high school, recent high school graduate; she was a cheerleader described (as) a good girl by her lawyer as you heard after the arraignment.
"And I think that kind of perception is one that Skylar wanted to perpetuate and her mother wanted to perpetuate."
Another physician called police after Ms Richardson came in months later and told her she had "gone into labour, delivered a stillborn baby and buried the baby in her backyard," according to court papers.
Her lawyers have accused prosecutors of creating "a false narrative" to sensationalise the case.
"What started as an 18-year-old high school girl who was frightened and saddened because of giving birth to a stillborn baby whom she named Annabelle and then telling her doctor of the stillborn and burial in the backyard turned into something sinister and grotesque," one of her representatives told the court.
Ms Richardson has been under house arrest for more than a year after a judge ordered a curfew of 9pm to 7am, random home visits and for her to be subject to GPS monitoring.
The trial continues.
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