LEBANON, Ohio (AP) — A young Ohio mother who prosecutors said killed and buried her unwanted newborn in her backyard was acquitted by jurors Thursday.
The Warren County jury deliberated for four hours before acquitting 20-year-old Brooke Skylar Richardson of aggravated murder, involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment charges.
She was found guilty of corpse abuse.
Richardson began crying as verdicts were being read.
Warren County Judge Donald Oda II scheduled sentencing for 11 a.m. Friday on the abuse of a corpse charge. It carries a potential sentence of up to one year in prison, but as a first-time offender, she could get probation.
Prosecutors contended that the high school cheerleader wanted to keep her “perfect life.” They said she hid her unwanted pregnancy and buried her baby in her family’s backyard in May 2017, within days of her senior prom.
Her defense said the baby she named “Annabelle” was stillborn and that the teen was sad and scared.
The remains were found in July 2017 in Carlisle, a village about 40 miles (64 kilometers) north of Cincinnati.
Richardson faced life in prison if she had been convicted.
A forensic pathologist testified for the prosecution that she concluded the baby died from “homicidal violence.” Prosecutors said Richardson had searched on the internet for “how to get rid of a baby.” They played video for the jury of a police interview in which Richardson said the baby might have moved and made noises.
Cincinnati psychologist Stuart Bassman said “Skylar was being manipulated” into making false statements during interrogations. He described Richardson as a vulnerable, immature person whose dependent personality disorder makes her want to please authority figures, even to the point of making incriminating statements that were untrue.
Julie Kraft, an assistant prosecutor, suggested that besides wanting to please authorities, Richardson’s desire to please her family and boyfriend and fear of them abandoning her could have motivated her to commit extreme acts.
Her attorneys had had twice asked to move the trial, citing intense publicity they said was fueled by the prosecution. But Oda II denied their motions.
The trial drew daily coverage from Court TV and at least two national TV network newsmagazines planned stories on it.
The case had divided people in her village of some 5,000 people, with Facebook pages devoted to it and some critics trying to record the Richardson family’s comings and goings to post on social media.
Associated Press writer Dan Sewell contributed in Cincinnati.