Memo in teen mom murder case reveals baby named 'Annabelle'
CARLISLE, OH (FOX19) - Attorneys for a teenage mother accused of killing her newborn baby are asking a judge to move the 18-year-old's trial to a different county amid a "media and social media firestorm."
Brooke "Skylar" Richardson is accused of killing, burning and burying her infant in July 2017.
The motion blames a state expert for turning the case of a grieving teen mother into "something sinister and grotesque."
Richardson was "frightened and saddened" after giving birth to a stillborn baby girl, Attorney Charlie Rittgers wrote in the change of venue request filed Monday in Warren County Common Pleas Court.
The document also reveals that Richardson named her baby girl "Annabelle."
"A premature and completely false opinion by the state's expert forensic anthropologist that Brooke Skylar Richardson's baby Annabelle was burned before burial ignited a media and social media firestorm. The Inaccurate report, which was retracted approximately one month after indictment, already did its damage. It tainted the police who interrogated Skylar, the prosecutor who chose to indict Skylar, and the public, from which the jury pool will be drawn," the memo reads.
Rittgers has not publicly revealed Richardson's defense, but maintains she did not kill her baby.
Shortly after her arrest last year, Prosecutor David Fornshell said Richardson "purposely" caused the death of her baby. He described Richardson's high-pressure life with a family "obsessed" with external appearances.
Referencing an unspecific "inaccurate report," Rittgers disputed Richardson's public reputation.
"The public heard about a person seeming to harbor a malicious intent burning her baby in an attempt to cover up a crime with no respect for her baby," the motion said.
Last month, a change of venue was requested, including a four page memo from Defense Counsel Charlie Rittgers that Judge Oda had previously stricken from the court record describing it as "inflammatory and prejudicial."
A motion to suppress was also submitted on March 5 to, "suppress any and all conversations between Brooke Richardson and her parents outside of the presence of law enforcement."
A few hours later, the State responded calling the memo, "misleading at best."
To the extent that she is renewing her previous motion for a change of venue, the ostensible reason is based on allegations that the State has put forth a false and misleading narrative regarding facts in this case and that those facts were the sole basis for the prosecution. In her memorandum, however, the defendant mischaracterizes the opinions of potential expert witnesses and omits other facts and evidence pertinent to the issues in this case.
The response also stated if the court is going to reconsider the motion for change of venue, the State would request a hearing where they would introduce evidence, and recorded interviews Skylar gave to law enforcement.
The former high school cheerleader, 18-year-old Richardson, is accused of killing her newborn baby "Annabelle", burning the remains in the family's fire pit and then burying the remains in the backyard.
Richardson was indicted last year on charges of aggravated murder, involuntary manslaughter, gross abuse of a corpse, tampering with evidence and child endangering.
In an interview with Cincinnati Magazine, family members supported Richardson's innocence and claimed that no one except the teen knew about the pregnancy until she gave birth to a stillborn baby.
They all maintain that Richardson, who goes by the name Skylar, is innocent of the charges and that the baby was not born alive, but rather was stillborn, as initial reports suggested. They claim that no one in the family other than Richardson was aware she was pregnant, and after delivering the stillborn child at her family home, she was scared and blamed herself, so she buried the body in the backyard.
The judge issued a gag order in August after Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell confirmed the victim was was a baby girl.
Last week, the Court of Appeals Twelfth Appellate District of Ohio overturned Oda's gag order on the case at a local newspaper's request.
"To presume that there may be news coverage that threatens the administration of justice, whether that be against the state or the defendant, is nothing more than pure speculation," reads the court opinion.
Her trial is scheduled to begin in April.
The case will return to court on March 14.
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