The trial for a former high school cheerleader accused of killing her newborn days after attending prom began this week with opening statements on Wednesday, September 4.
Prosecutors contend that Brooke Skylar Richardson — now 20 — secretly gave birth to a little girl in the middle of the night in May 2017, then killed the baby and buried her in the backyard while her parents and brother slept.
“Brooke took her own daughter’s life, destroyed all evidence of her birth and buried her in the backyard,” prosecutors said, according to local NBC affiliate WLWT.
Prosecutors told jurors Wednesday that just hours after the birth, Richardson texted her mom to tell her how “happy” she was about how great her belly looked.
“I'm literally speechless with how happy I am,” the text said, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer. “My belly is back omg I am never ever ever evertrrr letting it grt like this again your about to see me look freaking better than before omg.”
In another text, she gushed, “I’m literally so excited for dinner to wear something cute yayy my belly is back now I am takin this opportunity to make it amazing.”
Assistant prosecutor Steve Knippen said Richardson also headed to the gym that day and posted photos of the weight loss on social media.
But Richardson’s defense team has argued that the messages have been taken out of context. According to defense attorney Charlie Rittgers, messages like that were often common for the teen, given that she had struggled with eating disorders since she was 12 years old and often fluctuated between 30 or 40 pounds during her teen years.
"Her weight went up and down constantly and people did not know she was pregnant,” he said, WLWT reports.
He told jurors the teen had started to feel cramping during her prom, but didn’t realize it may have been the early signs of labor. He said doctors had told the teen the baby wasn’t due for weeks.
"She thinks she has two months, eight to 10 weeks," he said. "She thinks she can go to prom and graduate from high school before her mother gives her angst about being pregnant. But she delivers 11 days later."
Rittgers says the baby was stillborn after being born in the toilet.
But prosecutors believe evidence shows that Richardson hadn’t wanted the baby and went to extreme efforts to not only conceal the pregnancy but also to cover up the birth of her daughter, who she named Annabelle.
On Wednesday, the father of the baby, who is now 21, was called to the stand to testify about the relationship between the pair. He said that he was never told Richardson was pregnant and claimed the pair had only had sex twice before Richardson ended the relationship within a month, according to The Journal News.
Dr. William Andrew, an obstetrician gynecologist, also took the stand to testify that Richardson had a positive pregnancy test in April 2017 after coming into the office to get birth control.
He believed she was about 32 weeks pregnant and took the teen for an ultrasound in the hopes it would make the discovery seem more real. The baby had a strong heartbeat at the time, he said.
But Andrew testified that the teen still seemed upset. “She said, ‘I can’t have a baby. I am going to college,’” he claimed, according to The Journal News.
The doctor encouraged her to tell someone about the pregnancy.
"I warned her if she felt like hurting herself or the baby to let me know," he said.
But in July 2017, Richardson returned to the office to get birth control. She was seen by a different doctor who confronted the teen about the pregnancy.
“Brooke broke down and told her that she had the baby in the middle of the night and buried her in the backyard,” Kraft told the jury, WLWT reports.
The doctors decided to call law enforcement and authorities would later discover the baby’s skeletal remains buried in the backyard.
But while prosecutors believe Richardson killed her own child, Rittgers has repeatedly denied that assertion.
He criticized investigators, saying that authorities initially claimed that she had burned her baby, information he said later was found to be false, and coerced Richardson to say she had cremated the baby despite 17 different denials during the police interrogation,
“This case was about a massive rush to judgment,” he said. “They disregard all truth that does not fit into their story.”
Rittgers also told jurors that Richardson had told doctors the baby had been stillborn when it was born.
Richardson is facing charges of aggravated murder and involuntary manslaughter.
The trial is expected to last about two weeks.
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