LEBANON, Ohio — Speaking for the first time in court, Brooke Skylar Richardson said she’d be “forever sorry” while the judge who sentenced her to court supervision Friday made it clear he blamed her for her newborn baby’s death.
“I can sometimes be selfish, but I would like to think that I’ve become better in the knowledge that I’ve upset everyone and hurt so many people with what I’ve done, and I’m forever sorry,” Richardson said, standing before Judge Donald Oda before receiving her sentence.
ICYMI: Here is Brooke Skylar Richardson's full statement from court today. Only time she spoke during this case. Richardson sentenced to 3 years community control supervision, 7 days in jail (already served) for abuse of a corpse. @WCPO pic.twitter.com/Orc4Rp5hYg
— Josh Bazan (@JoshBazan) September 13, 2019
Moments later, the judge condemned Richardson's decisions that led to her baby daughter's death two years ago.
"I firmly believe, Ms. Richardson, in fact I know in my heart that if you would have made different decisions in this case, Annabelle would be here today,” Oda said.
“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," the judge added.
“In all of this mess that we have with this case, I think what often gets overlooked, Ms. Richardson, is just how precious life is. Your life. Annabelle’s life. Life is precious.”
Oda sentenced Richardson to three years of basic supervision for the charge of abuse of a corpse. He said the standard rules for community control, or probation, apply.
Oda also ordered Richardson to spend seven days in the county jail, but credited her for seven days already served, meaning Richardson was free to go when the hearing ended.
Watch the sentencing hearing in the player below:
Richardson could still be sentenced to up to a year in prison if she violates the terms of her probation. The maximum prison sentence she could have received Friday was six months, according to Oda.
On Thursday a jury found Richardson guilty of abuse of a corpse, but she was found not guilty of charges related to her newborn daughter’s 2017 death; aggravated murder, involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment.
During a seven-day trial in Warren County, the prosecution alleged Richardson, then 18, never intended to keep her daughter, so she killed her and buried her on the outskirts of her family’s Carlisle home after giving birth on May 7, 2017.
Investigators went to Richardson’s home on July 14, 2017 where they found the baby’s remains in a shallow grave.
A tearful Richardson told authorities in a police interview that she “didn’t really want to have” her baby but she “never meant to hurt her.” Richardson maintains that the baby was not alive.
During sentencing Friday, Assistant Prosecutor Steve Knippen asked Oda to hand down the maximum sentence.
“It is clear from the defendant’s actions that she never intended for anyone to even know that her daughter existed or that the skeletal remains would ever be discovered,” Knippen said.
He said if it were not for Richardson’s doctors who contacted authorities after she admitted to having the baby alone, “that child would still be buried in the backyard of their home without anyone knowing."
Paternal grandmother: 'I would have taken her in'
Tracy Johnson, the paternal grandmother of Richardson’s child, spoke in court as one of two victim representatives. Richardson’s father, Scott Richardson, was the second.
Johnson told the judge “not only did I lose my first grandchild,” but her son, Trey Johnson, lost his first child. She said Richardson “had no intention of ever letting” them know about the child.
“Two years, four months, one week. In case you were wondering, that’s how old my granddaughter would be if she were here today,” Johnson said.
Johnson told Oda that she and her son are “just has much [the baby’s] family as Skylar is.”
Johnson said she would have “taken her in” and raised her “with no questions asked.”
“Now instead, every May 7, I don’t get to have a birthday party for my first grandchild,” Johnson said. “Instead, I get to send balloons to heaven with notes telling her how much her daddy loves her, how much I love her, how much we all love her and how much we all wanted her.”
The remains of the baby, named Annabelle, will be released to the Richardson family by the Warren County Sheriff’s Office. Both families had requested the child’s remains for a burial service.
The judge ordered the remains be released to the Richardson family under the conditions the remains be buried properly and that the Johnson family had access to the burial site.
Richardson family reaction
Jay Ballweg, Richardson’s uncle, issued the following statement following Friday’s hearing:
“On behalf of the family we would like to express our gratitude to Charlie and Charlie and the entire Rittgers law firm. And we would like to express our thanks to our friends and our families and Generations Church in Carlisle for their support throughout this trying time. Thank you, again. That’s all.”
Brooke Skylar Richardson's uncle Jay Ballweg provided this statement after court: "We would like to express our thanks to our friends and our families and Generations Church in Carlisle for their support throughout this trying time." Also thanks defense team. @WCPO pic.twitter.com/aVZ064VNwN
— Josh Bazan (@JoshBazan) September 13, 2019
In court, Scott Richardson stood next to his daughter while addressing Oda. He asked the judge to allow his 20-year-old daughter to come home so the family could address what he called health concerns.
“My daughter is suffering from an eating disorder and we’re concerned for her health,” Scott Richardson said. “Anything you can do to help us get her home so we can take care of her would be greatly appreciated.”
Richardson has been under pretrial supervision for more than two years, her attorney Charles H. Rittgers said. She was under house arrest for one year, and given a curfew later on.
“It’s my understanding she’s been totally compliant with pretrial services,” he said. “There’s nothing to indicate whatsoever that she was breaking any of the rules or doing anything other than what the court expected of her.”
Richardson was last to address the judge before he imposed sentence.
“I would do anything and above that you ask, and I understand and I just wanted to say how sorry I was,” she said.
Judge: 'Everybody has an opinion'
One thing evident in Richardson's trial was that the case drew attention locally and nationally.
Oda addressed the high-profile nature of the case and why he was open to taking additional measures which allowed the public to watch the entirety of the trial.
“This has been an extraordinarily high-profile case and lots of people in the community are talking about this case, whether it be in their workplace, posting about it on the internet, it seems like everybody has an opinion on the case,” the judge said.
Oda said he wanted the evidence to be available to everyone.
“I think there is some value in the community having the opportunity to actually watch this trial,” he said.
WCPO's Abby Anstead and Evan Millward contributed to this report.
Follow our coverage of Richardson’s trial:
- What you should know as Brooke Skylar Richardson's murder trial begins
- Timeline: What happened before and after 2017 death of Carlisle newborn
- Richardson tells authorities she 'never meant to hurt' her newborn in interrogation video
- Brooke Skylar Richardson's baby's death ruled 'homicidal violence,' doctor says
- Brooke Skylar Richardson to authorities in 2017 interview: 'I think I killed her ... I squeezed her'
- Cincinnati-area OB-GYN says Brooke Skylar Richardson's baby was stillborn
- Doctor: Brooke Skylar Richardson has personality disorder, said she was sexually abused as girl
- Brooke Skylar Richardson’s murder trial now in the hands of the jury