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Where Is Brooke Skylar Richardson, Acquitted In Her Newborn's Death, Now?
“I knew in my heart of hearts that I was innocent,” Richardson said after an Ohio jury found her not guilty of her daughter Annabelle’s murder in 2019.
On May 7, 2017, Ohio 18-year-old Brooke Skylar Richardson secretly gave birth at her parents' home. The newborn girl, Annabelle, didn't survive and Richardson ended up burying her in her parents' backyard.
Months later, her child’s decomposing remains were recovered from her family’s home. Richardson insisted she'd been stillborn, but authorities suspected she'd been killed and brought murder and manslaughter charges against the high school cheerleader. The ensuing case became a media spectacle.
Here's what happened:
Who is Brooke Skylar Richardson?
Two days after Brooke Skylar Richardson’s senior prom, the Ohio high school student gave birth in secret in a bathroom at her parents' home in Carlisle, about 40 miles north of Cincinnati.
While sitting on the toilet, Richardson said she “felt that something needed to come out,” according to Cosmopolitan. She claimed she tried to catch the child, but was unable to immediately grasp the newborn due to how slippery the infant was. The baby, she said, showed no signs of life.
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“I hoped she would start coming alive,” Richardson would later tell investigators.
Richardson, still bleeding and suffering from severe stomach pain, dug a hole in her parents backyard and buried the lifeless newborn’s remains. Richardson claimed she placed a handful of pink flowers on the gravesite while her family slept in their home.
While at a doctor’s appointment in July 2017, Richardson became emotional and confessed to her OB-GYN, Dr. Casey Boyce, that she’d given birth and disposed of the newborn’s remains.
“I had it [the baby] alone in my house and I buried it in my backyard,” Richardson told Boyce at the time, according to an Associated Press report.
Richardson later disclosed to detectives that her baby wasn’t breathing, didn’t have a noticeable heartbeat, and that she hadn’t observed any movement upon inspecting the newborn after giving birth. She also said the child’s eyes were closed and the umbilical cord had become detached.
Police later arrested Richardson under suspicion of murder in her newborn’s death. The case quickly provoked nationwide public outrage — and divided the small community of Carlisle.
What was Brooke Skylar Richardson charged with?
In 2019, Richardson stood trial on aggravated murder, and involuntary manslaughter charges in connection with her newborn’s death. She was also charged with child endangerment and abuse of a corpse.
Throughout the trial, Richardson and her lawyers maintained the child was not alive at the time when she gave birth.
Prosecutors, conversely, alleged Richardson had conspired to kill her child. They said Richardson’s newborn was unwanted, and that she’d planned “how to get rid of a baby,” in order to maintain her “perfect life” weeks before giving birth.
Richardson allegedly told a doctor, who testified for the prosecution at trial that, “I can’t have a baby! I’m going to college,” upon learning she was pregnant.
A forensic pathologist testified on behalf of prosecutors determined that the newborn had been a victim of "homicidal violence." Prosecutors at the time had also initially insisted the child’s bones had been “charred” and showed signs of being burnt, despite Richardson denying setting fire to her child.
Dr. Elizabeth Murray, a forensic anthropologist who initially reported the newborn’s remains had possibly been incinerated, later retracted her original analysis after reviewing the little girl's bones a second time, CBS News reported.
Stuart Bassman, a Cincinnati psychologist, also took the stand for the defense, stating, "Skylar was being manipulated" into providing false statements to investigators during police interviews prior to trial. He said Richardson was extremely vulnerable to coercion at the time.
Richardson maintained following her acquittal that she “knew in [her] heart of hearts that [she] was innocent,” all along.
“It was so hard to live knowing the truth, but to have the whole world think otherwise,” Richardson told Cosmopolitan. “The people out there who hate me so much and wish horrible things upon me also do not know me.”
What is Brooke Skylar Richardson doing today?
In 2022, Richardson, who turned 24 earlier this month, filed a motion requesting the court seal her conviction.
Judge Donald E. Oda II, who initially expressed reluctance to seal the case’s official record, which he said contained the “unvarnished” facts of the allegations against Richardson, ultimately granted her request in October 2022, according to the Dayton Daily News.
The NAACP criticized the judge’s ruling, attributing it to Richardson’s white privilege.
“The message that Judge Donald E. Oda II sent to the American people by sealing the record of Brooke Skylar Richardson in a mysterious death and burial of her own baby girl, is one of the most egregious miscarriages of justice of the Ohio judicial system, since the Brock Allen Turner rape case,” Derrick Foward, president of the Dayton Unit NAACP, said in statement following the court’s decision.
“Both cases smell of white privilege to the nth degree. Sentencing disparities are real, and has an adverse effect on people of color. This is why the Dayton NAACP urges the voting public to get to know their judicial candidates and vote for the person who has a track record of administering sentences fairly.”
What was the verdict in the Skylar Richardson case?
Richardson was ultimately acquitted on manslaughter charges in her newborn’s death. She was, however, found guilty of corpse abuse. The then-20-year-old was sentenced to three years probation.
Had she been convicted, Richardson would have been sentenced to life in prison.
“I just wanted to say how sorry I was,” Richardson said in a court apology on Sept. 13, 2019. “I may sometimes be selfish, but I would like to think that I have become better in the knowledge that I have upset everyone and hurt so many people with what I’ve done, and I am forever sorry.”
Prosecutors had pleaded with the judge at the time to hand Richardson a minimum six-month jail sentence for the abuse of her newborn’s corpse.
Judge Donald Oda II stated that while he felt Richardson had shown a “grotesque disregard for human life,” he was bound by the law and was unable to go outside the sentencing guidelines.
“I know in my heart that if you would have made different decisions in this case, Annabelle would be here today,” Oda said, referring to Richardson’s daughter, WRGT-TV reported.
Richardson lost her hair due to the stress of the trial, her lawyers said, and dropped down to 89 pounds due to a severe eating disorder.
“Inside, I felt like I was dying,” Richardson said after the trial closed. “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.”
The trial also took its toll on the family of the newborn’s prospective father, Trey Johnson, who didn’t learn of the alleged stillbirth until 2018, months after it had occurred.
“Two years, four months, one week just in case you were wondering that’s how old my granddaughter would be if she were here today,” Tracy Johnson, Trey Johnson’s mother, said at the time of Richardson’s sentencing. “As hard as I’ve tried to find the right words to describe — broken, shattered, destroyed — none of it seemed to fit the amount of pain I have felt ever since we found out that not only did I lose my first grandchild, but my baby that I would lay down my life for without a thought, lost his first child.”
At trial, Richardson’s legal team and her family stood firm in insisting that that foul play was not at hand in the case.
“There is no way she would ever hurt anyone,” Richardson’s dad, Scott Richardson, told CBS’ “48 Hours,” according to a CBS News release.