Brooke Skylar Richardson, 18, was arrested in July after the remains of a newborn girl were found buried behind her family home.
As previously reported by Dearly, Richardson was originally charged with reckless homicide. In August, a grand jury added additional charges of aggravated murder, involuntary manslaughter, endangering children, tampering with evidence, and gross abuse of a corpse.
This week, members of her family told Cincinnati Magazine they believe Richardson is innocent of all charges. Her aunt, Vanessa, told the publication she believes the baby was stillborn — and she doubts Richardson would’ve set the remains on fire:
“Skylar is a pleaser, and she was already blaming herself about the baby being stillborn. She kept wrestling with the distressing idea that she may have somehow caused the baby to be born stillborn, and I think investigators twisted that around to prove that she is guilty of murder.”
According to WPCO, Richardson’s baby was around 38 to 40 weeks old when she was born. Even though Richardson was starting to show signs of weight gain, Vanessa said no one in the family knew Richardson was pregnant.
She told Cincinnati Magazine that family members are upset they didn’t clue in to Richardson’s pregnancy. She was pregnant during her prom, which was just days before the teen allegedly gave birth:
“In hindsight, she does have a bump. We are hating ourselves for that now. But at the time, we just thought she was eating good and not making herself throw up.”
Vanessa said Richardson struggled with weight problems during high school. The family was supportive during the weight struggle, and Vanessa said they would’ve been supportive of the pregnancy.
Now the aunt plans to show her continued support of her niece by standing behind her in court.
Richardson’s parents were absent from the interview, as there’s currently a gag order in effect for the case. The gag order prevents direct members of the family, their lawyers, and Warren County Prosecutor David P. Fornshell from speaking to the press.
USA Today reported the gag order was issued in August to protect the teen’s right to a fair trial. Richardson’s uncle, Jay, told Cincinnati Magazine the family was concerned that too much information about the case was being spread on social media:
“I think it is extremely unprofessional for the prosecutor to tweet and Facebook share news of the case. He has made the public think that [Richardson] is a terrible person and she’s not. All this publicity will hurt her. All our lives, we have been a family who have worked hard at our jobs and built stable lives. We have solid reputations and now everyone just looks down at us.”
Before the gag order was issued, Fornshell told reporters in a news conference the cause of the baby’s death was still unknown. The body had significantly decomposed between the time the baby was buried in May to the time the remains were uncovered in July.
Investigators received a tip on July 14, which led them to interview Richardson. According to Vanessa, Richardson then led police officers to the burial site.
Fornshell did not pursue the death penalty in this case, though life in prison is still an option. Richardson was released from jail on $15,000 bond. She appeared in court Wednesday and was issued a continuance.
— Mike Buckingham (@FOX19Buck) September 27, 2017
The trial date was originally slated for November, but it will be postponed until April 2018. Before the arrest, Richardson was an honor roll student, a volunteer at the local YMCA, and a cheerleader at her high school.