The parents of a suburban Cincinnati teen facing life behind bars for allegedly killing her newborn are coming to her defense, saying the baby was stillborn.
Brooke Skylar Richardson is accused of killing, burning, and then burying a baby she gave birth to last year at the age of 18, while in the bathroom of her parents' house.
This week, her parents spoke out, telling the Cincinnati Enquirer the baby was stillborn, and Skylar—as she is known—buried it because she didn’t know what else to do.
“No one should be prosecuted for having stillborn babies,” Kim Richardson, Skylar’s mother, told the newspaper.
Skylar's parents said they didn’t know their daughter was pregnant, explaining she suffered from anorexia and bulimia since middle school. So when she started putting on a little weight, her friends and family celebrated.
Taylor, 18, a high school friend of Skylar’s told Cosmopolitan magazine in a text, “thinking back on it she kind of gained a little weight but at this age most people do, lol I know I did. I never assumed she was pregnant, it never crossed my mind.”
Instead, Skylar found out she was 32 weeks pregnant when a doctor told her so, during her first visit to an OB-GYN, according to her mother. The next time she saw the doctor was on July 12, and Kim said Skylar told the doctor she’d given birth to a dead baby on May 7 and buried it.
The doctor and a colleague reported the incident to the Ohio Department of Health, which forwarded it to law enforcement.
Police showed up to the Richardson house on July 14.
“I don’t understand why from the very minute that they showed up to our house they started lying to us,” Scott Richardson, Skylar's father, told the Enquirer. “I mean, the first words out of [the detective’s] mouth were, ‘We just need to talk to your daughter about something she might have witnessed; she is not in any trouble.’”
Kim told the newspaper her daughter repeated the same stillborn story to police she told her doctor. Skylar, Kim said, wrapped her baby in a towel, named her Annabelle and held her for a time.
Then, Kim said, her daughter went to the garage, found a shovel, dug a hole between two trees in her backyard, and buried with baby with the half-rotted, ash-covered remains of a bunch of pink roses her boyfriend gave her for the prom two days earlier. Skylar choose the spot, Kim said, because she could see it from her bedroom window.
The evening of July 14, the lead detective assigned to the case, Warren County Sheriff Lt. John Faine, issued a news release saying "Although the remains have not yet been identified, initial reports have led investigators to believe they are that of a stillborn baby,” according to WHIO TV 7, the local ABC affiliate in Dayton.
“We’re not investigating any kind of report of any horrendous homicide or anything like that.”
Six days later, however, the official story changed.
Warren County Prosecutor David P. Fornshell, a man who describes himself as "extraordinarily pro-life," according to Cosmopolitan, held a news conference to herald a five-count indictment against Skylar for murder and related crimes, including burning the baby.
Since then, however, Dr. Elizabeth Murray, the forensic anthropologist who made a preliminary finding that the baby had been burned, disavowed that assessment, according to Cosmopolitan’s report.
A second forensic anthropologist, Dr. Krista Latham, concluded not just that there were "no signs of burning,” but that she saw no evidence of trauma "that could be related to the cause of death of this individual," according to the report.
Neither doctor responded to Oxygen.com’s requests for comment, and Fornshell, the prosecutor, said he didn't think it was appropriate to comment on expert testimony.
Meanwhile, Skylar’s prosecution is stalled because of an appellate court battle over the admissibility at trial of Skylar’s medical records, according to the Journal-News. Those records are currently under court seal, but are said to document her treatment for anorexia and bulimia—proof a jury might find compelling evidence explaining why the baby was stillborn.
Additionally, the lead detective in the investigation, Lt. John Faine, retired after Warren County Sheriff Larry Sims demoted him. Sims found Faine engaged in misconduct that “will cause your integrity to be questioned for the remainder of your career,” as Sims described it in a letter to Faine. The lieutenant had an affair with a woman he met on Snapchat, both while on and off-duty, the Enquirer reports. He's married to a judge.
A hearing in the appeal is scheduled for September 11. Even if a decision is swiftly issued its doubtful a trial would begin before 2019.
[Photo:Warren County Sheriff's Dep’t]