Cheerleader Who Hid Pregnancy, Buried Infant In Backyard Is Acquitted Of Murder
Carlisle, OH – A former high school cheerleader accused of murdering her infant daughter and secretly burying her in her family’s back yard has been sentenced to three years of probation.
Brooke Skylar Richardson, 20, will serve no time in jail in connection with the death of her daughter, who she named “Annabelle,” the Journal-News reported.
A Warren County jury acquitted Richardson on charges of involuntary manslaughter, aggravated murder, and child endangering on Thursday.
The jury convicted Richardson of a single count of abuse of a corpse.
Had she been convicted on all charges, she could have faced a potential life sentence, FOX News reported.
Prosecutors said they suspect the acquittals hinged on the fact that they were unable to pinpoint the newborn’s exact cause of death, according to the Journal-News.
She was sentenced to three years of probation on Friday.
According to prosecutors, Richardson was a high school senior who was determined to maintain her “perfect life,” even after she learned she was pregnant in April of 2017, FOX News reported.
By that time, she was approximately eight months into her pregnancy, Assistant Warren County Prosecutor Julie Kraft told the jury, according to WXIX.
“Upon learning she was pregnant, Brooke burst into tears and told her doctor she could not have this child and she could not tell anyone about being pregnant,” Kraft said. “And Brooke told no one. She did not tell her parents, her friends, or the baby’s father.”
Richardson gave birth to the daughter in the middle of the night on May 7, 2017, just days before her senior prom.
Although her parents and brother were all sleeping inside the same home at the time, she did not reach out to them, prosecutors said.
“Brooke took her own daughter’s life, destroyed all evidence of her birth, and buried her in the backyard,” Kraft told the jury, according to WXIX. “For over two months, in the summer of 2017, the body of Brooke’s daughter decomposed in her backyard.”
In July of 2017, Brooke returned to the doctor’s office to refill her birth control pills.
Although she met with a different doctor, the doctor who saw her had already been advised that Richardson was pregnant when she came to the office in April.
“As a result, she confronted Brooke about no longer being pregnant,” Kraft said. “Brooke broke down and told her she’d had the baby in the middle of the night and buried her in the back yard.”
Investigators found the baby girl’s skeletal remains buried in the family’s back yard, but the body was too badly decomposed for a cause of death to be determined.
“Because Brooke deliberately concealed her daughter’s birth and then buried her remains in the ground where they decomposed for over two months during the summer of 2017, all that was left of her daughter’s body were the skeletal remains,” Kraft told the jury.
A forensic pathologist testified that the infant died due to “homicidal violence,” Fox News reported.
Investigators also discovered that Richardson had conducted internet searches for “how to get rid of a baby,” prosecutors said.
During one interview, Richardson told police that her daughter may have made noises and moved after she was born.
Defense attorney Charlie Rittgers argued that Richardson’s daughter was stillborn, and that the teen buried her body because she was scared and sad, FOX News reported.
Psychologist Stuart Bassman testified that Richardson “was being manipulated” by police into making false statements, including her confession that she burned the child’s body.
Doctors ultimately concluded that the newborn’s body had not been burned, the Journal-News reported.
Bassman said that Richardson has a dependent personality disorder, which makes her eager to please those in authority, even if what she tells them is untrue, according to FOX News.
She also suffered from a severe eating disorder from the age of 12, her attorney said.
“I am literally speechless with how happy I am my belly is back OMG…” she wrote in a text message just hours after she buried her dead daughter, according to FOX News.
Rittgers alleged that the case was “well overcharged from the get-go,” according to the Journal-News.
He said that Richardson has been working at his office since he began handling her case, and that she has completed one semester at Sinclair Community College.
Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell said he understands the jury’s decision, but that Richardson’s statements and actions before and after she gave birth showed that the baby’s death was a homicide.
“She accomplished what she intended to do,” Fornshell said, according to the Journal-News. "Because she buried the baby and it was in the ground for months, there is no proof."