(CARLISLE, Ohio) — A former Ohio high school cheerleader who was charged with killing her newborn daughter and burying the baby in her family’s backyard has avoided prison time.
One day after Brooke Skyler Richardson, 20, of Carlisle was cleared of the most serious charges levied against her, Judge Donald E. Oda on Friday decided to spare her any time behind bars.
“I just wanted to say how sorry I was,” she told Oda before he delivered her sentence. “I can sometimes be selfish but I would like to think that I’ve become better. … I’m forever sorry.”
Richardson was sentenced Friday to three years of probation and seven days of jail time with credit for time served, meaning that she was allowed to go home Friday. The judge did sentence her, however, to six to 12 months in prison if she violated her probation.
“I think that your choices before birth, during birth, and after show a grotesque disregard for life. And I think when I look at this case that to me, is what offends the community sensibilities. But because of policy decisions that are beyond my purview, the jury was not permitted to consider those things,” Oda said. “And neither am I.”
In 2017, Richardson, then 18, delivered her baby, alone and at home, and then buried the infant’s remains in her family’s backyard, according to authorities. When Richardson went to a doctor for birth control two months later, she told doctors what she had done and they called police.
During her trial, prosecutors maintained that she didn’t want to be an 18-year-old single mother so when she gave birth, just days after attending her senior prom, she killed the baby and buried her — never telling a soul.
But, her defense lawyers argued that the baby, who was named Annabelle, was stillborn at delivery.
In police interrogation video presented in court, Richardson could be seen telling investigators in July 2017 that she did not hear a cry or a whimper and that the baby’s eyes were closed.
Oda said Friday he believed Richardson’s version of events.
“In all of this mess that we have with this case, I think what often gets overlooked, Miss Richardson, is just how precious life is. Your life. Annabel’s life. Life is precious, and it should be protected. And it should be guarded in all respects,” he later said.
On Thursday, a Warren County jury found Richardson not guilty of aggravated murder, involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment. She was found guilty of abuse of a corpse.
She faced up to a year in prison on that conviction.
The family of the baby’s father, Trey Johnson, had sought the remains of Annabelle. They were instead given to Richardson’s family.
The judge said that both families should be permitted to visit Annabelle’s burial site.
“As hard as I’ve tried to find the right word to describe — broken, shattered, destroyed — none of them seem to fit the amount of pain I’ve felt,” Trey Johnson’s mother, Tracy Johnson, told the court Friday during the sentencing hearing.
She reminded the court that not only had she lost her first grandchild, but that her son had lost his first child.
“And, Skyler had no intention of ever letting us know,” she said. “I find out from watching her interviews with detectives and her parents that not only did she know from the very beginning that Trey was the father, but also that she tried to secure her remains and plan on burying her without any of us ever knowing,” she said. “My friends and family will tell you I’ve become withdrawn, cut off in a shell of the outgoing person I’ve always been.”
Tracy Johnson said Friday that she would have taken the baby in and raised her “with no questions.”
“Instead, I get to send two balloons to heaven with notes telling her how much her daddy loves her, how much I love her,” Tracy Johnson said.
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