On Thursday, a former Ohio high school cheerleader accused of murdering her newborn daughter and burying her in her family’s backyard was acquitted of all murder-related charges.
Brooke Skylar Richardson, who is now 20, was acquitted of aggravated murder, involuntary manslaughter, and child endangerment. She was sentenced to three years’ probation for a lesser charge of gross abuse to a corpse.
On May 7, 2017, Richardson, who was 18 years old at the time, secretly gave birth to her daughter at 33 weeks’ gestation and buried her in her family’s backyard. The remains of the baby were found roughly two months later, according to NBC News, after an OB-GYN reported that the teen told her she gave birth to a stillborn and buried her.
Due to the baby’s decay, the cause of death was unable to be determined, subsequently straining the jury’s ability to determine that the baby was murdered by Richardson beyond a reasonable doubt.
The prosecution team argued that the teen set up “the perfect crime” to murder her baby girl and protect her “perfect life.”
“Shortly, after murdering her daughter and placing her daughter in the dirt, and not even having the decency to cover it with a blanket, she sent two elated text messages: My belly is back, my belly is back,” assistant prosecutor Steven Knippen said in court, according to NBC.
The prosecution argued that the defendant’s “mother was obsessed with her appearance and constantly monitored her weight,” Fox Newsreported.
Knippen also asked why the baby, if born a stillborn, was secretly buried.
“If it came out not breathing, why didn’t she try to get it help?” the prosecutor asked. “If she thinks something is wrong, why didn’t she get her parents, her brother, call 911 or go to the hospital?”
The Daily Star reported that Richardson sent a gym selfie to her mother the day the baby was buried, holding up her T-shirt and showing off her belly. “I am literally so excited now just for dinner to wear something cute yayyyy my belly is back and now I’m taking this opportunity to make it amazing,” the text reportedly said.
Before sentencing was doled out, Tracy Johnson was one of the many people to offer a statement before the court. Johnson is the baby’s paternal grandmother — the mother of the baby’s father, Trey Johnson, according to the Dayton Daily News.
“Her selfish decision was not her only choice,” Johnson said of Richardson. “She had a way out.”
During her sentencing on Friday, Richardson acknowledged that she can be “selfish” but noted that she is “getting better.”
“I would do anything you ask,” she told the judge, according to Inside Edition. “I can sometimes be selfish, but I’m getting better. I’m forever sorry. I’m so sorry. I’ve hurt a lot of people. I am really, really sorry. And I understand.”
According to Ohio-based NBC affiliated WCMH, Richardson will be eligible to remove the charges from her record if she abides by the terms of her probation for the next three years.