Jury seated for Franklin father's retrial in son's scalding death

Posted at 7:17 AM, Mar 06, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-06 17:39:24-05

LEBANON, Ohio -- A jury was seated in Warren County Monday for the retrial of a Franklin father charged in connection with his 4-year-old son’s scalding death.

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

Ritchie was back in Warren County Common Pleas Court on Thursday for a final hearing before the start of his re-trial on charges of manslaughter and felony child abuse. In December, a mistrial was declared after jury could not reach a verdict after four days of testimony and seven hours of deliberation.

Ritchie, who had been in the Warren County Jail since May, was set free on his own recognizance after the first trial.

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He is accused of not seeking medical treatment for his son Austin Cooper, who in March was held in a bathtub of scalding water by his stepmother, Anna Ritchie.

Prosecutors say Robert Ritchie did not check on his son for 15 hours after learning he had been burned severely by Anna Ritchie.

“We owe it to that boy (Austin) to retry this case,” Warren County Prosecutors David Fornshell said in December. “Under the circumstance of the allegations, it warrants another jury the chance to come to a decision.”

After talking with the jurors, defense attorney Frank Schiavone III said the split of the jury was six to acquit and six to convict.

Anna Ritchie is serving 18 years to life after pleading guilty to murder for killing Austin.

After Thursday’s hearing, defense attorney Frank Schiavone III said, “We are ready for trial.”

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.

Robert Ritchie took the stand in his own behalf during the first trial telling jurors that Anna Ritchie was aggressive in punishing Austin and was also aggressive with him.

When he returned home before Anna Ritchie went to Bible study, Robert Ritchie testified he went to check on his son who was in bed, but his wife grabbed him a kept him out of the room. Anna Ritchie held the boy in a tub of scalding water while Robert Ritchie was at work at the Dollar Tree, investigators said.

Prosecutors said Anna Ritchie injured the boy then dressing him in pajamas and socks and put him to bed, where he died. But if Robert Ritchie had checked on the boy and sought treatment, he would have recovered, officials alleged.

Robert Ritchie knew his son had been burned through communications with Anna Ritchie even before he returned home, but still did not check on the boy until the next morning when Austin was found dead, according to the prosecution.

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