LEBANON, Ohio (FOX19) - The jury in the trial of a Warren County teenager accused of killing her newborn daughter begun hearing evidence Wednesday.
Brooke “Skylar” Richardson, who is now 20, is charged with killing the baby and then burning and burying her remains in the backyard of her family’s Carlisle home in May 2017.
The trial got underway Tuesday with jury selection and opening statements from attorneys on both sides.
On Wednesday, Assistant Prosecutor Steve Knippen said Richardson researched “how to get rid of a baby," never told anyone she was pregnant and never followed up with any type of prenatal care.
Trey Johnson said in August of 2016 him and Richardson had a sexual relationship. He stated they had sex two times, but once did not use protection. The relationship ended about a month later, but he said there were no discussions about the pregnancy or that he was possibly the father.
A swab DNA test confirmed he was the father of the baby.
Knippen said on April 26, 2017 Richardson had her mom make an appointment at Hilltop OBGYN to get birth control pills. However, a doctor estimated she was already in her third trimester and would be delivering within weeks and said the fetal heart rate was strong and healthy.
Hilltop OBGYN Medical Assistant Ashley Sparkman said she acted “nervous more than a typical patient we check in.” She said Richardson said she had a period a couple of weeks before the visit and her periods were normal.
A urine pregnancy test confirmed her pregnancy.
Dr. Andrew, an OBGYN at Hilltop, said when Richardson heard the result she broke into tears and said she was not prepared to deliver a baby and couldn’t have a baby.
“She kept repeating she can’t have this baby and couldn’t tell anyone she was pregnant,” Knippen said. “She left with specific instructions, however, never scheduled the follow up appointments.”
Defense attorney Charlie Rittgers argued Ricahrdson was informed she was going to have about 10 weeks to inform her family she was pregnant, but instead gave birth 11 days after her appointment.
Knippen told the jury when Richardson gave birth to her daughter in the middle of the night on May 7, 2017, she didn’t call 911, didn’t try to go to the hospital and didn’t get her parents.
“She was still, even when confronted with the birthing process, determined to keep her secret. When the moment of truth was upon her she took her newborn’s life and disposed of that body behind the home... destroyed any evidence of her daughter’s existence before going back to bed,” Knippen said.
Rittgers said that was not the case.
"The baby is white, umbilical cord not attached, not breathing. She grabs a towel and swaddles her child... touches her baby. She names her daughter Annabelle. She stands up walks down stairs and gets a tiny shovel and walks outside to a tree line that is visible from her bedroom window and digs a shallow grave. She puts Annabelle inside and covers it with dirt and a flower pot.
She buried her daughter and marked the grave. She didn’t throw her in a trash can... throw her in a dumpster," he said.
Dr. Andrew discussed the health of an umbilical cord and referred to it as having structural integrity and that a thin one can break.
Rittgers said her stillbirth could’ve been caused by intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) or from her history of eating disorders.
While Dr. Andrew said both increase the risk of stillbirth, he could not confirm either for Richardson’s baby.
Knippen showed the jury shortly after discarding the baby she text her mom saying “I’m literally speechless with how happy I am. My belly is back omg I am never ever ever letting it get like this again. you’re about to see me look freaking better than before omg.”
Rittgers said these texts to her mother about her weight were common in her life for six years and her mother was really obsessive about Richardson losing weight.
“90 to 140 pounds her whole life. Her weight would fluctuate her entire life. She would miss a period for an entire year at times. Up and down constantly and the people around her did not know she was pregnant,” he said.
According to the prosecution, Richardson went to the gym just hours after giving birth and photographed herself and her mid-section. She then sent her mom another text.
“I’m literally so excited now just for dinner to wear something cute. My belly is back now I am taking this opportunity to make it amazing,” the message read.
On July 12, 2017, Richardson went back to Hilltop OBGYN for a request for birth control but saw a different doctor, Dr. Boyce.
Dr. Boyce confronted Richardson about no longer being pregnant, and Knippen said Richardson broke down and told her she’d buried her in the backyard.
“'I have to ask you the last time you were here you were pregnant and you’re no longer pregnant. What happened,?'” She said ‘I had it alone in my house and I buried it in my backyard,’" Dr. Boyce said.
Richardson told the doctor she didn’t tell anyone what happened and still didn’t want her mother to know. She also refused an examination.
“I said ‘does anyone know about this’ and she said ‘no.’ ‘I’m the first person on the planet you’ve ever told’... and she said ‘yes,’” Dr. Boyce said. I offered to do a physical exam and she declined. I told her there could be some trauma or changes but she declined."
Dr. Boyce said she refilled her prescription of birth control and advised her to seek counseling and professional help.
Two days later on July 14, Dr. Boyce consulted with Dr. Andrew and the police department was notified. The skeletal remains of Annabelle were then found in the backyard.
Deputy McKay with the Warren County Sheriff’s Office said when Richardson arrived on scene to direct officials to the burial site she was “visibly upset.”
Richardson was then removed from the scene when the site was pointed out.
“We had to remove some of the vegetation... then dust the area very gently. We see one bone at the time and dusted the area. It was very shallow. We didn’t use any tools to dig. There was a decomposition odor," McKay said.
Deputy Smith with the Warren County Sheriff’s Office said he was called back to the Richardson scene on July 24 to process the interior for evidence and remove electronics.
Upon examination of Ricahrdson’s bedroom, he said it appeared the bed had been moved that day. He claimed under the bed was a patch of carpet that looked “scrubbed.”
Smith said they used a product called BlueStar, a blood revealer, on the carpet and it illuminated immediately and intensely - which meant there was a large concentration of blood in that area. He also claimed he could see the outline of a small torso.
BlueStar also illuminated in the hallway and bathroom near Richardson’s bedroom, according to Smith.
The defense claims there was no DNA from Annabelle found in the bedroom.
The team then played an audio clip in court where they said you can hear officers laughing at the crime scene.
“Is there something funny about looking for blood,” Charlie Rittgers asked.
Smith said it was not laughing, but a reaction to the BlueStar.
“There was excitement evidence was found,” he said.
While the prosecution claims Richardson burned the remains in a fire pit, Rittgers said interrogations show Richardson denying ’17 times’ that she burned her baby.
Coroner Dr. Russell Uptegrove said when he searched the fire pit, they found no immediate evidence the baby was burned there.
“There was ash, pieces of burned wood, chicken bones, fish bones... nothing that appeared to be human,” he said.
Rittgers accused police involved in the case who interrogated Richardson made her vulnerable.
“She describes a dead baby 29 times. She’s utterly confused by the fire comment. The police made her vulnerable and said Annabelle’s remains wouldn’t be returned to the family until she told the whole truth," he said.
Seven women and five men sit on the jury. Three alternates of two women and one man were selected.
The trial is expected to last two weeks.
Richardson was indicted on charges including aggravated murder, involuntary manslaughter, endangering a child, tampering with evidence and gross abuse of a corpse.
If convicted on all charges, Richardson could be sentenced to prison for the rest of her life.