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

Stepmon pleads guilty in boy's scalding death
Posted at 3:04 PM, Sep 01, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-02 00:45:17-04

LEBANON, Ohio -- A Warren County judge sentenced the Franklin woman who killed her stepson by placing him in scalding hot water to between 18 years and life in prison Thursday.

Anna Ritchie pleaded guilty to six charges stemming from when she held 4-year-old Austin Cooper's legs in the water, which was about 134 degrees, for between 20 and 25 minutes.

She previously pleaded not guilty to the charges, which include two counts of murder, felonious assault, involuntary manslaughter and two counts of endangering children. She withdrew that plea Thursday shortly before pleading guilty.

WATCH our report from the day of Ritchie's indictment 




"This is incomprehensible," Judge Robert Peeler said. "It's just beyond something that I can find words for."

Ritchie spoke in court. She said she knew what she did was "wrong and shameful."

"I am deeply sorry for what happened, and I hate that I caused both families a lot of pain, sorrow, hurt and grief," Ritchie said.

Austin's grandmother, Sheri Gredig, said she believed Ritchie was "evil."

"She took something away from me that I will never get back," Gredig said.

Ritchie had "resented becoming the primary caregiver" for her 4-year-old stepson, Austin Cooper, and had "a rough parenting style," Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell previously said.

"For whatever reason, bath time really had become the epitome of this level of resentment that she had towards this 4-year-old child and what his arrival meant to her personal life," Fornshell said.

The prosecutor showed photos of Austin's injuries in court Thursday. One showed fingernail marks on Austin's arms that he said were from when Ritchie held him down in the scalding water.

"As bad as the images of burn injuries can be, the most sickening evidence in this case are the photographs of the series of 'claw mark' cuts on his arms where her fingernails cut into him as she gripped, and gripped, and re-gripped to hold that screaming little boy down in that scalding water," Fornshell said. "It's just horrifying."

By the time Ritchie let Austin out of the tub, his feet were bleeding and some of his skin was falling off, Fornshell said. Ritchie put pajamas on the boy and socks on his feet so he wouldn't bleed on the comforter and mattress, and put him to bed before 5 p.m.

Austin could likely have been treated for Hypovolemic shock and survived, had Ritchie taken him to a hospital, according to Fornshell.

Instead, police and emergency medical personnel later found Austin in a crib not breathing after his father called 911, 16 hours after he was put to bed.

"I know that no amount of 'I'm sorry' can bring Austin back, but I know what I did was wrong and shameful, and I accept full responsibility for my actions," Ritchie said.

Austin's father, Robert Ritchie, is awaiting trial on charges including involuntary manslaughter. Fornshell said Ritchie failed to seek medical treatment for the child after learning he had been injured.

WATCH our report on the charges filed against Robert Ritchie