Defense rests in Skylar Richardson trial, closing arguments expected Thursday

Updated: Sep. 11, 2019 at 5:39 PM EDT
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WARREN COUNTY, Ohio (FOX19) - The defense rested their case in the Skylar Richardson murder trial on Wednesday.

The former Carlisle High School cheerleader, now 20, is accused of killing her newborn in May 2017 and burying her in her family’s backyard.

Her attorneys maintain her baby was stillborn.

FULL COVERAGE | Skylar Richardson Trial

Psychologist Stuart Bassman said after testing Richardson, he determined she had a “personality disorder.”

“It is my opinion that Skylar Richardson suffers from a mental disorder that makes her more susceptible to complying with authority,” Dr. Bassman said.

He said because of her personality makeup, she can’t stand up for herself and avoids confrontation at all cost.

He also states she “lives in a state of denial.”

When Dr. Bassman listened to the interrogation tapes, he said Richardson was being force-fed about setting fire to the baby and hearing a sound.

“But unfortunately she was worn down and she submitted and she complied,” he said.

Assistant Prosecutor Julie Kraft asked if Dr. Bassman was provided with any information showing she had no plans of parenting her daughter.

“No... but that doesn’t surprise me,” he responded.

Kraft also put together a checklist for characteristics of young females who engage in “neonaticide," which is the deliberate act of a parent murdering their own child during the first 24 hours of life.

When she asked Dr. Bassman if Richardson fit the criteria he said “no.”

“I am not an expert in neonaticide. It’s easy to get a checklist and check it off... but it’s really not fair,” he said.

Called first to the stand was Carlisle High School English teacher Chris Curry. He said she was a stand out student.

“She was known to be a hard worker and someone to always follow the rules. She was one of those students you wished you had 25 more of in class,” he said.

Curry said through her senior year he had no idea she was pregnant.

Ashley Brown went to high school with Richardson and said she was “always kind to everyone.”

“I’ve never seen her be mean to another human being let alone hurt another human being - especially a baby,” she said.

Brown said she was shocked when the news came out about Richardson’s arrest and charges.

Richardson’s brother, 18-year-old Jackson Richardson, also took to the stand and called his sister his “best friend."

Jackson also discussed her eating disorders.

“I just kind of noticed that her and my mom would argue about it [her weight]. It wasn’t unusual to hear her getting sick. I hated hearing it but I never talked to her about it," he said.

Jackson said he’d turn up the TV or music to drown out the sounds.

Forensic pathologist Dr. Mark Levaughn said the cause and manner of death of Richardson’s baby is undetermined.

His report read “the skeletal remains showed no identifiable evidence of thermal injury... no identifiable evidence of violent traumatic injury... due to state of advanced state of decomposition there is no identifiable evidence of live birth.”

Assistant Prosecutor Steve Knippen asked if by examining the bones he could say there is not evidence the baby could have suffocated or drowned.

“That’s correct,” Dr. Levaughn responded.

MORE | Richardson’s dad testifies biggest regret in life is ‘not having an attorney for the 2nd interrogation’ | ‘I tried to cremate my baby’: 2nd police interrogation video played in Skylar Richardson trial

Though the defense and prosecution seemed to focus on Richardson’s mother and their relationship, neither called Kim Richardson to the stand throughout the six days of testimony.

According to the defense, her mother’s focus on outward appearance contributed to her eating disorders that doctor’s testified could have caused the stillbirth.

Prosecution shared several text messages between the two showing their obsession with weight and states the fear of her mother caused her to kill the baby in hopes she wouldn’t disappoint her.

On Tuesday, jurors heard from Richardson’s father, Scott Richardson. He said his daughter loved kids and worked with children with special needs.

“She would never hurt another living being - let alone a baby,” he said.

Prosecutors say the evidence doesn’t support Richardson’s baby, Annabelle, was stillborn.

OBGYN Dr. John White testified for the defense and said he made his opinion on the cause of death after reviewing several records, including excerpts from the two police interrogation tapes.

“That indeed early in the morning on May 7 she delivered a stillbirth infant at approximately 3 a.m.,” he said.

Dr. Andrew, an OBGYN at Hilltop, who confirmed Richardson’s pregnancy on April 26, 2017, measured her fundal height at 32 centimeters - meaning she was about 32 weeks pregnant.

However, White said Richardson was 39 weeks pregnant at her visit, which shows her fundal height was allegedly lagging by seven centimeters and could indicate intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR).

Assistant Prosecutor Julie Kraft cross-examined White about fundal height measurement and Andrew’s previous testimony.

“You need to measure fundal height with a measuring tape. You cannot do a fundal height measurement with your hands,” White said.

Kraft asked if his opinion would have changed if he had known Andrew made the measurement with his hand.

“I didn’t think about that... can I get a few seconds. It would’ve made me less confident... but it would not have changed my overall opinion that she delivered a stillbirth,” White said.

Kraft: There is no reliable measurement you have to base your opinion on?

White: Correct.

Closing arguments are expected to begin Thursday at 9 a.m.

Richardson was indicted on charges including aggravated murder, involuntary manslaughter, endangering a child, tampering with evidence and gross abuse of a corpse.

On Monday, Judge Oda announced the tampering with evidence charge was dropped, but all others remain.

If convicted on all charges, Richardson could face life in prison.

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