Cheerleader accused of killing a child found "not guilty" of murder

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A former American high school cheerleader was found not guilty of the "sinister and grotesque" murder of her newborn daughter who she buried in her parents' yard.

Brooke Skylar Richardson, 20, burst into tears when a Warren County jury acquitted her of aggravated murder, involuntary manslaughter and charges of endangering children Thursday in Ohio, US. She was found guilty of abuse of a corpse and will return to court tomorrow for conviction. The maximum penalty for this last charge is one year, but could get probation.

His parents cried in the front row before the court when the verdict was issued. "We love you so much," his mother told her. "We love you, baby."

Ms. Richardson was 18 when in 2017 she told a doctor that she had given birth to a stillborn baby, called "Annabelle", and to bury him in her parents' backyard in the village of Carlisle, just north of Cincinnati.

The doctor reported the incident to the police who soon identified the remains of the child.

Ms Richardson was later charged with aggravated murder, involuntary manslaughter, gross abuse of a corpse, tampering with evidence and danger to children and pleaded not guilty.

The former cheerleader of the Ohio High School gave birth in the bathroom at her family home on May 1, 2017. It was only a few days after her prom and weeks before she started college. His parents and friends said he hid their pregnancy from them.

Assistant attorney Julie Kraft said that Ms Richardson did not tell anyone when she gave birth to her daughter.

"Brooke took her daughter's life, destroyed all the evidence of her birth and buried her in the backyard," Kraft said.

But she came back to her doctor for birth control a few weeks later, where suspicion arose.

According to her legal team, Ms Richardson was silent because she didn't realize that it would be due so soon and her response was normal for a frightened teenager.

Defense attorney Charles M. Rittgers also pointed to inaccuracies in the investigation.

Prosecutors initially reported that the body had been burned, but further forensic analysis concluded that it was not.

Mr Rittgers said the state did not mention a detective in the case in a police report that Ms Richardson burned the child with a lighter and that the flames went up on the baby's chest.

"Even if they released a press release about it, but they lack the courage to get out of the bat and say they were wrong," he said.

In last week's opening statements, prosecutors said the evidence shows that Ms Richardson gave birth alone, buried the child, disposed of the evidence and kept it secret from everyone, including her parents.

It was claimed that Richardson "intentionally" caused the death of the child, saying that the family was "obsessed" with external appearances and wanted to prevent a potential interruption in their lives.

According to prosecutors, Richardson had an "extreme" reaction after being told that she was pregnant and did not return for prenatal follow-up visits.

County prosecutor David Fornshell previously stated that Ms Richardson and her family had been concerned about the community's reaction to her pregnancy outside of marriage.

"Skylar and his family, especially his mother, were rather obsessed with external appearances and the way things looked to the outside world," he said.

"You have a situation in which, you know, she is a pretty high school graduate; she was a cheerleader described (as) a good girl by her lawyer, as you heard after the arraignment.

"And I think that kind of perception is what Skylar wanted to perpetuate and his mother wanted to perpetuate."

Another doctor called the police after Ms. Richardson arrived a few months later and told her that "she went into labor, gave birth to a dead child and buried the child in her yard", according to court documents.

His lawyers accused prosecutors of creating a "false narrative" to sensationalize the case.

"What started as an 18-year-old high school girl who was scared and saddened by the birth of a stillborn baby who called Annabelle and then told her doctor about the stillborn and the burial in the courtyard turned in something sinister and grotesque, "One of his representatives told the court.

Ms. Richardson had been under house arrest for over a year after a judge ordered a curfew from 9:00 pm to 7:00 am, random home visits and for her to be subjected to GPS monitoring.

[email protected] | @Megan_Palin

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