Stepmom pleads not guilty in 4-year-old's death

Posted at 10:18 AM, Apr 20, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-20 13:55:14-04

LEBANON, Ohio – An attorney representing a Franklin woman accused of killing her stepson by placing him in scalding hot water entered a “not guilty” plea on her behalf Wednesday.

During an arraignment hearing, a Warren County judge increased Ritchie's bond from $350,000 to $1 million. If she makes bond, Ritchie will be on home arrest and will not be allowed to be in contact with anyone under 18.

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

Fornshell said Ritchie placed the 4-year-old's legs in scalding water, approximately 134 degrees, for 20-25 minutes.

"By all accounts, Austin didn't like taking baths -- no 4-year-old does -- but on this particular occasion, in order to teach him a lesson -- she decided to run scalding water in the bathtub," he said.

Austin could likely have been treated for Hypovolemic shock, 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.

Ritchie was charged with murder, felonious assault, involuntary manslaughter and two counts of endangering children. She faces 15 years to life in prison if convicted of murder.

Ritchie’s trial is scheduled to begin Sept. 26.