Father charged in son's scalding death gets second mistrial after being taken to hospital

Ritchie became ill during coroner's testimony
Dad charged in scalding death gets 2nd mistrial
Posted at 10:42 AM, Mar 07, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-08 01:41:44-05

LEBANON, Ohio -- The Franklin father charged in his 4-year-old son's death was given a second mistrial Tuesday after he got sick during the second day of his retrial and was taken away by ambulance.

Robert Ritchie became ill when Dr. Christopher Kiefer, who performed Austin Ritchie's autopsy, showed photos of the young boy's body on a large screen.

Both sides requested a mistrial and Judge Robert Peeler said he had no choice.

"I don't think there's a curative instruction or anything that can be done to get that image out of this jury's head," said Steven Knippen, assistant Warren County prosecutor.

"Counsel observed him getting sick and several jurors apparently observed him getting sick ... Both counsel have asked for a mistrial and I think considering all of the circumstances I have no choice," Peeler said.

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. Robert Richie was at work at the time, but prosecutors say Austin would have lived if his father had taken him to the hospital or called for an ambulance after 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.

Robert Ritchie, 31, is charged with felony child endangering and involuntary manslaughter.

Robert Ritchie didn't get ill during the first trial when he saw his son's photos. His attorney, Frank Schivione III, offered an explanation Tuesday.

"He was in shock the first time," Schivione said. "Now he sees them again, going through that same trial again ... The pressure is incredible and this man has been through so much trauma involving his child and this is just more of it, And now we're looking at a third trial."


In December, a mistrial was declared when the jury could not reach a verdict after four days of testimony and seven hours of deliberation.

Ritchie was set free on his own recognizance.

Anna Ritchie pleaded guilty to murder and is serving 18 years to life in prison.

During the first trial, doctors testified that Austin had second- and third-degree burns on about 28 percent of his body and died of hypovolemic shock. He was found dead in his bed on March 16, 2016.

Robert Ritchie took the stand in December and told jurors that Anna Ritchie was aggressive in punishing Austin and was also aggressive with him.

After scalding Austin, Anna Ritchie dressed the boy in pajamas and socks and put him to bed, prosecutors said.

RELATED: 'It was an accident,' father texted wife after fatal scalding bath

RELATED: Anna Ritchie sentenced to 18-to-life in 4-year-old stepson's scalding death

Robert Ritchie testified he went to check on his son after he came home from work, but his wife grabbed him and kept him out of the room.

She then went to Bible study, but Robert Ritchie still didn't check on his son, even though he knew Austin had been burned through communications with Anna Ritchie even before he returned home, prosecutors said.

When Robert Ritchie finally checked on the boy the next morning, Austin was dead, according to the prosecution.