Things That Matter

Brooke Skylar Richardson, The Former High School Cheerleader From Ohio Who Buried Her Newborn, Has Been Acquitted

Brooke Skylar Richardson was charged with killing her newborn daughter and burying her in the backyard of her parent’s home. The 20-year-old from Ohio was found not guilty of aggravated murder and involuntary manslaughter. 

Richardson was, however, convicted for abuse of a corpse and sentenced to three years probation. After completing the three years she could potentially have the conviction expunged from her record. 

The unsettling story about the Ohio cheerleader, who according to prosecutors, executed her baby and covered it up as not to “ruin her perfect life,” gripped the media, garnering national attention in 2017. 

Brooke Skylar Richardson is accused of burning her baby alive. 

According to the Daily Beast, Richardson discovered she was pregnant in April 2017 while visiting the gynecologist to receive birth control for the first time. The 18-year-old kept the news that she was 32 weeks pregnant a secret. On her senior prom night, Richardson gave birth in the family bathroom. 

This is where dueling narratives occur. Richardson says her child was a stillbirth. Horrified, she dug a shallow grave in her backyard and buried the daughter she named Annabelle. The prosecutors claimed Richardson killed her baby, burned her body and then buried her because she didn’t want to give up her perfect life. 

“Assistant prosecutor Steven Knippen said in court that days after the baby’s death Richardson sent two text messages bragging about her [thinner] appearance,” according to NBC News.

However, the death only came to law enforcement’s attention because of Richardson’s own confession. When her gynecologist pressed her about the pregnancy, she told him about the stillbirth. The doctor reported her to the police for possible child abuse. 

“My biggest regret is not having the strength to tell someone that I was pregnant. I wish I would have done it differently,” Richardson told Cosmopolitan. “I’m plagued by guilt every day for not telling someone.”

Richardson claims the police coerced a confession out of her.

According to Richardson’s defense team, police questioned her for hours until she confessed to trying to cremate the remains of her baby.

Richardson would spend the next couple of years enduring a grueling trial where she endured bullying and harassment from members of her community that labeled her a “baby killer.” 

Despite a seemingly national smear campaign, a jury of seven women and five men found her not guilty after an eight-day trial in September. They found there was no evidence she burned her baby.

However, prosecutors remain certain that Richardson murdered Annabelle. They believe she has a personality disorder because she was sexually abused when she was 12 and that during her police interview, Richardson claimed she heard the baby making sounds and burned it with a lighter. 

“I understand why the jury did what they did. I get it. But, I do believe she killed her child. As I sit here today, I believe it. I understand there are proof issues,” prosecutor David Fornshell told Local 12. “The fact that she meets 15 out of the 15 criteria for neonaticide to just walk away, you know what, we’re not going to try. That’s not who we are.”

Richardson speaks out for the first time since being acquitted. 

Cosmopolitan published an interview with Richardson, where she spoke out about the ordeal for the first time. 

“I spent a lot of my time depressed,” Richardson said of the past two years. “Every night, I would lie down and wish that I could have died in place of Annabelle.”

When news spread about the criminal charges, most of Richardson’s friends abandoned her. Her community turned on her, many of whom would leak information to the press by snapping photos of her in her home. Others devoted Facebook groups to the trial where they would share conspiracy theories and say things like “burn Skylar alive.” 

“It was so hard to live knowing the truth but to have the whole world think otherwise,” she said. “The people out there who hate me so much and wish horrible things upon me also do not know me.”

Richardson deactivated social media and took up new hobbies like reading, cooking knitting, and doing her makeup every day even if she scarcely left the house. In the end, she kept at least one good friend.

“These things just happen—babies are stillborn— women shouldn’t be blamed for that,” Ashley, an old friend from middle school told Cosmopolitan. “It’s sickening what they have done to her. I just try to keep it as normal as possible and be there for her as a friend.” Another longtime friend says Skylar told her that she “misses her baby.”

Richardson told Cosmo that she didn’t take a plea deal, which reduced her charges from a life sentence to 15 years because she knew she wasn’t guilty. 

“I knew in my heart of hearts that I was innocent,” she said. In the end, a jury of her peers agreed. 

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