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Jury selected for father's third trial in 4-year-old son's scalding death

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Posted at 12:57 PM, Aug 21, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-21 16:58:38-04

LEBANON, Ohio -- For the third time, a jury was selected in Warren County to help determine the fate of a father whose 4-year-old son died after he was scalded in a bathtub.

Robert Ritchie's first two trials in the death of his son, Austin Cooper, ended in mistrials.

Ritchie is charged with felony child endangering and involuntary manslaughter. Anna Ritchie, Cooper's stepmother, pleaded guilty to murder. She's serving 18 years to life in prison.

Austin died from serious burns and injuries after his stepmother, Anna Ritchie, held him in a tub of scalding hot water as a punishment, prosecutors said.

Assistant Prosecutor Julie Kraft said Robert Ritchie was charged for "his failure to adhere to the most basic mandates of being a parent." He was at work when Austin was injured, but prosecutors say Austin would have lived if his father had taken him to the hospital or called for an ambulance once he got home.

Instead, Robert Ritchie did not check on his son for 15 hours after learning he had been burned severely by Anna Ritchie, according to prosecutors.

Defense attorney Frank Schiavone III said Robert Ritchie is "a good and decent man" who's "never been convicted of a crime in his life."

Robert Ritchie became ill during the coroner's testimony in his second trial. After he was taken away from the courthouse by ambulance, Judge Robert Peeler declared a mistrial.