Brooke Skylar Richardson, born and raised in Carlisle, Ohio, was a bright and talented young girl. Growing up in a small town with a population of 5,000, she lived in a loving and perfect home with her parents, Kim and Scott Richardson, and her brother, Jackson. Brooke was a popular cheerleader who loved being a flier (a cheerleading position), but the pressure of the sport eventually led her to develop an eating disorder at 12.
According to Psychology Today, eating disorders are common among young athletes, especially in sports that emphasize body weight, such as gymnastics and cheerleading. These athletes are at a greater risk of developing disordered eating patterns because they are expected to maintain a lean physique while also maintaining high energy levels. The pressure to perform well, combined with the desire to conform to certain beauty standards, can lead to a host of physical and mental health issues.
Teenage Eating Disorder
Brooke’s struggle with an eating disorder was severe and took over her day-to-day life. The American Psychological Association reports that individuals with eating disorders often experience a lack of trust in others and have difficulty expressing their emotions. Brooke’s struggles with trust and emotional expression may have played a significant role in the development of her disorder.
In 2016, Brooke began dating a friend’s cousin and later started a serious relationship with a junior in her high school named Brandon Saylor. Her parents believed Brandon was a wonderful influence on her, and they noticed she was gaining weight, which they thought was because of her being happy. Despite the newfound happiness in her life, a life-changing event was about to unfold.
Brooke went to the doctor with her mother to get on birth control. However, after a private session with the doctor, Brooke came out crying, saying that the appointment was intimidating. The doctor had told Brooke that she was pregnant and would give birth in less than 10 weeks, which was incorrect. Brooke was already about 36 weeks pregnant. This shocking news was hard for Brooke to digest, but she kept the pregnancy a secret, even from her boyfriend.
A few months later, the police showed up at the Richardson household, stating that rumors circulated Brooke had a baby and buried it in her backyard. Brooke eventually admitted to the police that she had given birth to a stillborn baby girl and buried her in her backyard. Brooke was charged with reckless homicide, and her story changed during the interrogation when she claimed the baby had gurgled after being born.
Brooke was arrested and sent to jail a second time after a grand jury gave her additional charges of aggravated murder, involuntary manslaughter, endangering children, and abuse of a corpse. The prosecution continued with the charges, even though a new pathology report showed that there were no burns on the baby and that it was most likely stillborn.
The Brooke Skylar Richardson case brought national attention to the legal and ethical dilemmas surrounding fetal demise, infanticide, and child abuse. According to the American Bar Association, fetal demise refers to the death of a fetus before birth, while infanticide refers to the killing of a child within 24 hours of their birth. Here, the prosecution argued that Brooke had intentionally caused harm to her baby, while the defense argued that the baby was stillborn and that Brooke was in a state of shock and denial.
In 2019, the state tried to make a deal with Brooke, stating that they would drop the aggravated murder charge if she agreed to plead guilty to the rest of the alleged charges. However, Brooke refused and went to trial, where the lack of evidence regarding whether the baby was stillborn was the biggest challenge for the prosecution. They found Brooke not guilty on all charges, except for the gross abuse of a corpse.