WARREN COUNTY, Ohio (FOX19) - The public had the chance to hear from Brooke “Skylar” Richardson for the first time Thursday when a two hour police interrogation tape was played by the prosecutors.
The Carlisle teen is accused of killing her newborn baby girl, burning her, and burying her in the backyard of her parents’ house in May 2017.
Richardson, who is now 20, is charged with aggravated murder, involuntary manslaughter, gross abuse of a corpse, tampering with evidence and child endangering.
If convicted on all charges she could be sentenced to life in prison.
Dr. Susan Brown, forensic pathologist, at the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office, was the first witness to take the stand on Friday.
Brown said she received skeletal remains with just a small amount of soft tissue attached and no internal organs.
No internal examination was able to be done and the autopsy included an external examination and photographs.
“In order to determine both cause and manner of death all of the information leading up to the death at the scene, during the autopsy, if toxicology can be performed... all of those things can bring a complete picture,” she said.
Brown said she used her exam of the bones, information from the burial site and Richardson’s police interview to determine her opinion on the cause of death.
She stated there are three fractures on both the right and left skull bones, but could not be certain if they were pre or postmortem.
She concluded the cause of death was “homicidal violence of undetermined etiology,” which means the exact cause of death cannot be determined.
When asked by defense attorney Charlie Rittgers if she was able to tell by her examination baby Annabelle suffered injury prior to death, Dr. Brown responded “I cannot.”
Rittgers said Brown didn’t do enough evaluation before making her opinion.
“I did not ignore facts,” she said.
Rittgers also pointed out the states’s forensic anthropologist, Dr. Latham, said there were no signs of homicidal trauma. According to Dr. Latham, the fractures are postmortem.
Dr. Brown told Assistant Prosecutor Julie Kraft that even if the injuries are postmortem this baby still died of homicidal violence.
“Based on just the autopsy alone, I can’t determine if it was a live birth,” she said.
Kraft: Based on what you had left of baby Richardson, can you offer an opinion on whether or not she was suffocated?
Dr. Brown: No.
Kraft: Based on what we have of baby Richardson can you make any determination she was drowned?
Dr. Brown: No.
When prosecution called Dr. William ‘Kim’ Brady to the stand, a maternal fetal medicine specialist, they used his expertise to contend that Richardson’s baby was alive when it was born.
Brady testified that blood work that Richardson had done on April 26 was normal, as was the baby’s fetal heart rate.
“If we have a healthy baby on April 26, 2017 would you expect to have a significant change in the outcome of that child in one and a half weeks," Assistant Prosecutor Julie Kraft asked.
“I would expect the baby to still be alive,” Dr. Brady said.
During an interrogation, Richardson told police about the sounds the baby made, gurgling, crying and also movement. She also added Annabelle was alive for five minutes and she may have squeezed her baby too hard.
Her attorneys have disputed that she delivered a stillborn child and buried her in the backyard because she didn’t know what to do.
Rittgers said her stillbirth could’ve been caused by intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) or from her history of eating disorders.
Dr. Brady said there was no sufficient evidence to support Richardson had IUGR.
The prosecution claims that Richardson tried burn the newborn’s body and pointed to what Richardson said to her father in one of the police interviews when he first walked into the room.
“And the first thing she utters to her father is, ‘I tried to cremate the baby,'” Kraft said.
However, Rittgers also said all three anthropologists hired on the case agreed the remains were not burned, and Dr. Brown said he was correct.
Dr. Brown confirmed an initial determination that the remains were burned led to a second search of the Richardson home, gravesite, plus a second police interrogation of Richardson.
The second police interrogation video is expected to be played in court on Monday.
FULL COVERAGE | Skylar Richardson Trial
On Thursday, Richardson told Warren Co. Sheriff Lt. John Faine and her parents that she never meant to hurt or kill her baby.
Richardson apologized multiple times asked several times if she was in trouble or going to jail.
Her dad asked if she thought she would get away with this.
“I had the baby and it wasn’t breathing. I didn’t kill it. I held it really tight... it’s the only thing I can think of,” Richardson said.
Richardson asked her parents several times if they still loved her and they replied that they did, but she found little comfort from her mom and dad on what she had just been through.
“There’s nothing we can do now. It’s in the papers. We’re in the news. The neighbors are already calling me,” her mom said after learning of the allegations.
On Wednesday, opening arguments began and several witnesses took the stand including the baby’s father, Trey Johnson, two OBGYN’s from Hilltop OBGYN, deputies from the Warren County Sheriff’s Office and Coroner Dr. Russell Uptegrove.
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.
It unknown if Richardson will testify in her own defense.