Prom Horror – An ex-cheerleader’s fight to defend herself against infanticide charge

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🎙️Listen: Prom Horror – Brooke Skylar Richardson

This case divides itself into two separate theories. The first, and the camp in which I find myself, is that Annabelle (Skylar’s baby) was according to the mother, a stillborn and there were “no signs of life” at all.

The second theory, popularized by assistant District Attorney David Fornshell, is that Annabelle was born alive. And the mother chose infanticide so she wouldn’t have to carry the responsibilities of raising a child.

Credit: TheSun.co.uk

As for Brooke Richardson’s story, on May 7, 2017, around 3 am, she got up in the middle of the night after needing to urinate and the “pale skin” baby girl was born on the toilet.

Skylar then used a small garden spade to bury her in a spot where she could always see her from her bedroom window.

Credit: Cincinnati.com

One of the main reasons that I believe the plausibility of this event is that neither mom or dad was woken up by, well you know… someone giving birth in their house.

Now, I’m a guy, so yeah I wouldn’t know what it is like to give birth, but I do watch a lot of television and every baby-being-born scene I’ve seen shows the mother screaming in agony – “push, push, breathe” – until finally the baby is introduced to this crazy world.

My point being, if the baby was a malnourished stillborn, wouldn’t it be less painful for the mother to give birth?

[su_highlight background=”#fcff35″]KILLER ON THE CHEER SQUAD[/su_highlight]

Richardson graduated with honors from Carlisle High School, and she was scheduled to attend the University of Cincinnati to study psychology.

Credit: Teen Vogue

During her summers, Richardson would work at a camp for kids with disabilities.

In a press release by Warren County prosecutor David Fornshell, both Skylar and her mother are “pretty obsessed about their appearances to the outside world.”

Fornshell also says that Richardson was a “cute girl,” which is super creepy if you think about it.

Fornshell, who also told media outlets that the mother “subsequently burned the infant and buried the infant in the backyard of her own residence,” identifies himself as “extraordinarily pro-life.”

 

[su_highlight background=”#fcff35″]PLAGUED WITH EATING DISORDERS[/su_highlight]

According to Cincinnati.com, Skylar was debilitated by eating disorders through her high school career and sometimes fluctuating from 90 to 140 pounds.

Just before her 16th birthday, according to her medical records, Richardson nearly fainted at a cheer competition because at the time she was not eating.

The following is a quote from her mother.

[su_highlight background=”#fcff35″]WHO CARES IF THE BABY WAS SET ON FIRE?[/su_highlight]

This case has been tainted from the beginning with false information and recanted statements from experts. Skylar’s attorney has asked the judge to allow them three separate trials to avoid an “impermissible joinder of offenses.”

One of these ‘experts’ who has recanted their statements is forensic pathologist Dr. Elizabeth Murray. Initially, Dr. Murray claimed that the fetus had “charred bones” and inflicted with unexplained skull fractures. This statement is tremendous to make in support of the prosecution, as noted earlier from David Fornshell, “subsequently burned the infant and buried the infant in the backyard of her own residence.”

The media took this story and created a ‘Tabloid Hell,’ which, in my opinion, makes Brooke Richardson’s right to a fair trial nearly impossible now.

I mean who wouldn’t find the” Cheerleader, 18, ‘smashed her newborn daughter’s skull, set her on fire and buried her in garden’ days after her school prom’ – actual headline from TheSun, guilty?

So yeah, it is a pretty big deal that Dr. Murray screwed up, and when questioned by People magazine about the mistake, Dr. Murray responded with this statement.


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SOURCES I USED FOR THIS EPISODE

BROOKE SKYLAR RICHARDSON INTRODUCTORY APPEAL

Ohio Cheerleader Buries Her Baby’s Body And Asks For Charges To Be Dismissed. (2019, August 23). Retrieved from https://www.yourtango.com/2019327245/who-brooke-skylar-richardson-new-details-ohio-cheerleader-who-buried-babys-body-and-now-wants-charges-dropped

Chopra, S. (2018). Skylar Richardson: Life becomes tabloid nightmare for family. Cincinnati.com. Retrieved from https://www.cincinnati.com/story/news/2018/09/05/life-becomes-tabloid-nightmare-carlisle-family/1159855002

Angela Ingram, W. (2017). Grand jury indicts Ohio teen on aggravated murder charges for burned, buried baby. WKRC. Retrieved from https://local12.com/news/local/grand-jury-indicts-teen-on-aggravated-murder-charges-for-buried-baby

Chopra, S. (2018). Skylar Richardson: Life becomes tabloid nightmare for family. Cincinnati.com. Retrieved from https://www.cincinnati.com/story/news/2018/09/05/life-becomes-tabloid-nightmare-carlisle-family/1159855002

Birchall, G. (2019). Cheerleader, 18, ‘smashed her newborn daughter’s skull, set her on fire and buried her in garden’ days after h. Sun. Retrieved from https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/9766566/cheerleader-killed-baby-prom-brooke-skylar-richardson-ohio

Ohio Cheerleader Who Admitted to Burying Newborn’s Body Wants Charges Dismissed. (2019, August 27). Retrieved from https://people.com/crime/brooke-sylar-richardson-ohio-cheerleader-wants-charges-dismissed

Hager, S. (2019). Skylar Richardson’s attorneys claim prejudice in baby death trial, ask for 3 separate trials. https://www.fox19.com. Retrieved from https://www.fox19.com/2019/07/03/skylar-richardsons-attorneys-claim-prejudice-baby-death-trial-ask-separate-trials

Defense asks for dismissal of Carlisle buried baby case. (2019, August 01). Retrieved from https://www.wcpo.com/news/local-news/warren-county/defense-asks-for-dismissal-of-carlisle-buried-baby-case-because-of-recanted-testimony

  • One of the reasons I love y’all is the structure of the podcast- it’s like sitting around with friends, drinking, shooting the shit and talking murder. If some people cannot appreciate that, sucks to be them

    As for the case:

    I think she wanted the birth control pills so she could show her mom, so mom wouldn’t know she was pregnant. Dr. shouldn’t have been able to tell mom about pregnancy bc of HIPPA (privacy laws regarding patients).

    Cheerleader is also a huge part of some high schoolers identity, some win national trophies and such at cheer competitions….was her team really successful? That may be why they used it as a main descriptor for her.

    I am surprised they had her come back for a birth control pill refill, most places here prescribe a year at a time. Maybe the Dr did that because of her being so young and they knew her mom didn’t know?

    If the baby was born stillborn, the girl shouldn’t be jailed but should be required to get some mental health help.

    ((Nicole, for the whole baby just slid out….if she was truly having such a bad eating disorder, maybe the baby was very malnourished and small because of it?))

    I remember friends as teens being so naive and making some very dumb mistakes, like really dumb. Teens aren’t known for being the greatest with plans, especially when they are really scared, which I assume she was. 

    If not, I still think she needs mental health assistance, (for her eating disorder too) and if found mentally stable enough – serve a sentence. I don’t think it should be a very long sentence, bc the mental duress she was under.

    I don’t think she will ever see a fair trial because of the notoriety of her case and media sharing false info.

    I am always amazed with females and/or their friends and family not knowing they are pregnant. I have 4 kids, and I am not a petite woman but you could tell I was definitely pregnant each time….the last one was an intentional home birth, no pain relief…let me tell you, there was no mistaking there was a baby coming, lol.

    • @grace

      Grace, first thing. I deleted your latest comment. Not by choice, the website was actually in the process of switching over to a new hosting provider. Here is your comment.

      “Yeah, I looked up more info and cannot find one article that clearly says whether the baby was stillborn…..I thought we had forensics that could tell whether an infant was ever breathing? Or am I mistaking this with some other forensic thing in my brain? (I thought there have been cases where some science was used to figure this out)

      OK, ETA, I just looked it up and yes, there’s forensics for this…..why wasn’t it used here and if it was, why aren’t they sharing the info? Hypothetical bc if prosecution has that info they wouldn’t use it in the case if it proves stillborn after the picture they’ve tried to paint of this teen.
       
      And I only shared my views bc Jen was discussing the prolife/prochoice discussion.”

      You seriously always provide the best discussion comments.

      As for your original comment, thank you for your kind words.

      This was a tough case for me and not just because of the subject matter, but because it was hard to find accurate information.

      When it comes to pro-life or not, I don’t have a solid position. Why? Because I’m not a female and ultimately feel the decision is the females to make.

      I’ve seen many articles saying that testing proved that the baby was alive, but I haven’t seen any confirmation other than those articles. What kind of testing was done?

      As for the parents not knowing, I believe it. I’m not sure if this will be a public trial, but I am real interested in seeing some of the height and weight statistics of the baby and to know if it was malnourished or not. My guess would be it was since Brooke wouldn’t even use toothpaste because of it’s calories. But, all I have is speculation and interest in this case.

      • @jon

        Thank you, I’m just usually fascinated by the psychology, science and the details lending to those.

        Oh, the additional articles I found had no info on whether the baby was tested to be born alive. If they did testing, they would look at lung tissue but with the whole thing with Murray being less than truthful, I don’t think we will ever know the truth here :/

        Yeah, that was something else I was looking for- info on the baby’s size.

  • The false information is astonishing in this case.

    I’ll preface this by saying I have a 9 month old daughter, and she’s all I could picture when Jon was describing the head bashing and setting on fire of a live baby. My immediate reaction was that I’ll go take care of Skyler myself if the justice system doesn’t. It’s unbelievable how easily fake news is spread!

    I’m outraged by the idea that the medical examiner openly lied about the body being set on fire. From a legal (and moral) standpoint, I don’t think we can believe the head bashing story if this ME is our only evidence. I’ve heard no evidence to suggest that the baby wasn’t a stillborn, and in the US, the burden of proof lies with the prosecution. Based on the information I have, I think the most Skyler is guilty of is hiding a body, and given all the circumstances, she should be given a minimal penalty.

    As unbelievable as the giving birth in the bathroom story may seem, I’ve seen it happen. My sister-in-law left work sick one day, and ended up giving birth in her bathroom at home. She had no idea she was pregnant. A lot of people don’t believe these stories, but I can say first hand, she had no reason to lie. She was 28, happily married, and solidly middle class. She was told she couldn’t get pregnant, so I think she was writing a lot of the signs off as something else. According to her, it was quick and virtually painless. So I tend to believe Skyler about this story.

    We had a similar incident happen several years ago, in my village. A high school girl gave birth in the middle of the night, in her bathtub. Her boyfriend then abandoned the baby. I couldn’t find much on the case since it’s from 2011. The church (Fox Valley Christian Fellowship) is across the street from my house, so I was following the case pretty closely at the time.

    https://wtaq.com/news/articles/2011/may/25/teens-charged-abandoning-baby/

    In the case, the teens actually received custody of their child. I think it boils down to this: High School kids are just that- kids. Smart kids do stupid stuff, especially when they are scared. They say the brain continues developing until you turn 25. In my home town case, they teens were given probation, and an opportunity to have their record expunged upon successful completion of their probation. (Apparently the mother didn’t successfully complete hers as a quick search on CCAP shows her charges are still public). I think at worst, Skyler should receive a similar penalty, unless it can be proven that the baby was born alive, and she killed it- which is murder.

    I’m prolife, but I don’t see this as pertaining to this case, unless she tried to get an abortion and was unable to do so.

     

    • @wisconsintruecrimefan

      I hope I didn’t make the details too graphic, that wasn’t my intention. I sometimes let my imagination get the best of me.

      If you would of told me 5 years ago that women could give birth without knowing they are pregnant, I wouldn’t of believe it. However, like your sister-in-law, I have a good friend that this happened to. His wife had no idea she was even pregnant, and the baby just “slipped out”.

      Great comments there!

       

      • @jon

        It was actually pretty funny. My brother was at work at the time, and when the police called his office and said his wife had a baby and he needed to come to the hospital, he said “shut up, Tony” and hung up.

        Later on when he texted me to tell me that he was a dad, my first response was: “Stacey (his wife) is gonna be pissed when she finds out!!”

        Either way, we have a happy and healthy 8 year old girl now.

    • @wisconsintruecrimefan

      Tony I agree- I don’t think that the prosecuter being pro-life is too relevant here- like I said during the episode most people are anti-murder no matter where they stand on the life issue.

  • Such a sad story all around. I think Skyler reacted as many teenager girls would under the circumstances. The pregnancy was denied because although she knew she was pregnant, in her mind she could just ignore it. When the time came to actually give birth the reality of this struck her hard. We will never know if the baby was still born or not therefore prosecution for this is not possible. However, the trauma of this situation definitely had an impact on her and she needs some serious therapy. That being said she does need to help accountable on some level for her actions.

  • What are the thoughts on the statements read in court regarding Skylar texting her mom that her “belly is back omg i am never ever evetrrr letting it ger like this again your about to see me look freaking better than before”. I just read this from a news posting.

  • I keep coming back to her just being a terrified teen.

    If she’s hiding a pregnancy, maybe she’s bitching about gaining weight to her parents as a misdirect? That text, in that context could just be her trying to reinforce the whole “OMG, I gained so much weight this year and I’ve been going to the gym and working hard, and look mom, it’s working…” kind of denial. She is probably wearing baggy clothes, mom is probably trying to be supportive of any healthy seeming way to deal with it…..though with a history of disordered eating, you don’t know if her mom was in denial about it and seeing it as “normal” teen dieting and obsessing over her figure.

    From all that I read, I do think Skyler successfully hid the pregnancy. I don’t think this text really proves else-wise, without something on her moms end that points to mom knowing. Teen girls are often obsessed with their weight/size….even the super tiny ones. I knew size 0 girls who’d go through periods of saying they were fat and wearing baggy clothes to hide their stomachs as a teen until they felt self-confident again. And body dysmorphia and disordered eating can make this 1000x worse. 

  • I like the perspective and passion you all have, but I think you’re missing a lot of key details in this case which are making you side with Skylar. There are so many damning texts and searches on both her phone and her mom’s that paint a far different picture than a girl who was surprised by a pregnancy determination after a routine OB-GYN appointment. There’s evidence through texts and internet search history presented in court that Skylar knew she was pregnant (internet search for “what do they do when you’re pregnant at a gynecologist appointment” in the days leading up to the appointment), so this wasn’t something that came as a shock to Skylar (let alone not having 7 months worth of periods set off any alarms beforehand). The fact that her mom wanted her on the pill not necessarily for birth control but to help regulate her weight because she was concerned about “Skylar’s stomach” paints the mom as a pathological narcissist. Seeing the texts between Skylar and her mom as her mom keeps pressuring Skylar about losing the weight, to the point where when Skylar says she thinks she’ll probably lose 10 pounds this week the mom responds with “that’s great I couldn’t be more proud of you”, and you can see how Skylar became obsessed with her weight and her body image – it’s her mom’s doing! The mom also repeatedly messaged Skylar when pressuring her to get birth control that if she had a baby her life would be over and that she wouldn’t be able to go to school because she’d have to work full time to support the baby. So there you can see how Skylar is going to hide the pregnancy throughout so she would not be judged by a mom who would flat out reject a pregnancy and the changing body it would give to her precious trophy daughter. There are just lies abound in that family. Skylar when interrogated didn’t just say she burned the baby, she gave a detailed account of holding the lighter to the baby’s feet and skin and how she gave up after she was not getting the results she wanted. She then after the interrogation, in view of the cameras, told her father she “burned the baby just a little”.

    This is not a Making a Murderer thing, she knew what she was saying and the conditions were far less persuasive. There’s also an internet search from Skylar’s phone of “how to get rid of baby” well before she gave birth, showing no intention of keeping the baby or even making its existence public. I place most of the blame on Skylar’s mom and the pressure she put on Skylar to be pretty and to avoid pregnancy, but in trying to appease her mom she did heinous acts that, stillborn or not, led to a terrible fate for her child. I agree with the judge that even if the baby was stillborn (I don’t believe it), Skylar acted in ways leading up to the child’s birth that limited the baby’s chance at survival – starving herself, excessive exercise to the point of exhaustion, stomach exercises that could have damaged the uteral lining or pulled the placenta/baby from the uteral wall. “Why not just have an abortion if you didn’t want the child” you were asking? She was petrified of her parents, or her boyfriend (look at his texting alias in the transcripts for a good laugh) finding out that she prevented the baby’s growth and then disposed of it in secret so she could maintain her perfect life. Skylar is culpable in this case, she made choices even a child would know to be wrong. What I hate about this case is that the parents in the closing statements pleaded that Skylar needs to return home because she has an eating disorder – but going home to her mom that wanted nothing but perfection is exactly the worst possible outcome for Skylar, and had it not been for that this whole case wouldn’t even have existed.

    Much of the problems in this case stem from the fact that by the time the baby’s death was discovered it had decomposed to the the point where simple tests for cause of death (looking at the baby’s lungs, bruising on the skin, etc.) could not be determined because the baby had been decomposing for over 2 months. Like the Casey Anthony case, this is a situation that strongly benefits the defendant, since by not telling anyone she’s allowed the evidence to rot away. There wasn’t an attempt by the state to frame Skylar, just ambiguity in the results because the body and bones had been decomposed to the point where no conclusive evidence could be ascertained. In your podcast you say that there is no record of the skull being bashed, but the reports state this pretty conclusively – but again because of the decomposition of the body they cannot say for sure whether this happened before or after burial (seeing as the grave was undisturbed when the body was exhumed I’m not banking on some worms and centipedes breaking her skull open). The rib bones were darkened to the point they looked charred – I don’t know the further details about what could cause that (chemicals released during decomposition? Fertilizers and bacteria in the soil?) but considering the small town where this occurred and the fact this is such a rare case, the forensics analyst probably would be very green on the subject (how often would you make a diagnosis like this in practice or even in school) so you could see how she’d come to a false conclusion which she owned up to later.

    Whatever the forensic results, the reality is still that through her actions before and after the birth, Skylar did everything she could to prevent this baby from her right to life – there’s no justice for the baby, Annabelle, nor the father and his family, who said in court they would have loved and taken care of the baby no questions asked. This is the case of a scared little girl whose mom’s toxic vanity created a cycle that led to a baby’s death and disposal, but someone deserves culpability for this, but like with Casey Anthony a baby is dead, a young narcissist is free and somehow nobody is to blame. Tragedy all around.

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