For the past eight days, jurors heard gripping testimony in the trial of Brooke Skylar Richardson. Both the prosecution and the defense presented their respective cases, and the jury began deliberations on Thursday afternoon.
Later on Thursday, the jury delivered a verdict: they found Richardson not guilty of aggravated murder, involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment. She was found guilty of only one charge: gross abuse of a corpse.
Richardson had been accused of killing and burying her newborn daughter in her backyard in July 2017. Prosecutors alleged she did not want to be an 18-year-old single mom. Richardson’s attorneys argued that the baby was stillborn and didn’t meet the legal criteria to be considered a child.
Now 20, Richardson pleaded not guilty. On Tuesday, a judge threw out a charge of tampering with evidence, saying that the prosecution did not meet its burden of proof on that charge.
Here are some of the shocking trial’s biggest bombshells.
1. The Question of Cremation
In court last Friday morning, prosecutors played a recording of a police interview with Richardson in 2017. At the end of the interview, she spoke to her father — and the conversation was recorded. A transcript was read for the jury.
“Honey, tell us what happened,” her father said, according to the transcript.
“I tried to cremate the baby,” Richardson allegedly said.
It’s important testimony, because prosecutors and defense attorneys dispute whether the baby’s body had been burned. In a police report presented in court, a homicide detective wrote that Richardson allegedly used a lighter to set her baby’s foot on fire. The flames got to the baby’s chest before Richardson put them out.
By the time the baby’s skeletal remains were found, it was inconclusive whether her body had been burned. Her attorneys claim that she falsely admitted to burning the body after police broke her down during questioning.
2. Richardson’s Eating Disorder
Richardson’s brother took the stand on Wednesday to discuss their upbringing — and disclosed that the 20-year-old woman suffered from a longtime eating disorder.
Jackson Richardson was a character witness for his sister. He told the jury about family vacations and holidays, but said everything was not perfect in their home. He told the jury that she would hide food, and said he would sometimes hear her throwing up.
“I just wanted her to be happy,” he said.
Also on Thursday, the defense called Chris Curry, an English teacher at Richardson’s high school. He testified that she wrote an essay on her eating disorders.
The defense argues that Richardson’s weight and health problems may have affected her baby’s development.
3. Her Incriminating Texts
In court on September 4, prosecutors presented texts that Richardson allegedly sent her mother, who did not realize that her daughter was pregnant.
“I’m literally so excited for dinner to wear something cute yayy my belly is back now I am takin this opportunity to make it amazing,” she allegedly texted 24 hours after the baby died.
Prosecutors allege that Richardson texted her mother again the day after she buried the child. She had gone to the gym and was documenting her weight loss in photos, prosecutors said.
“I’m literally speechless with how happy I am,” Richardson allegedly texted. “My belly is back omg I am never ever ever evertrrr letting it grt like this again your about to see me look freaking better than before omg.”
The prosecution then presented a text message she sent her boyfriend the morning after the baby’s death.
“Last night was like the worst ever,” she wrote. “But I feel so much better this morning. I’m happy.”
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Prosecutors allege that Richardson did not want to be a single teen mom with college only a few months away. In the weeks after learning of her pregnancy, Richardson didn’t return for an ultrasound, bloodwork, or any other treatment, while also ignoring calls from the doctor and assistants, prosecutors have said.
In a police interview played in court last Thursday, Richardson allegedly told police that she didn’t return her doctor’s phone calls because she was scared. “I didn’t really want to have my baby,” she told police. “I really don’t know what I planned to do.”
She also told police that she looked into an abortion, but it was too late to have one. She denied that she performed an abortion on herself.
Prosecutors alleged that she intentionally killed her baby, despite the fact that the medical examiner was unable to determine a cause of death. They also alleged that she searched “how do I get rid of a baby” upon finding out she was pregnant.
Richardson’s attorneys repeatedly admitted she buried the child’s remains in her parents’ backyard — but they said she only did so after the baby was stillborn and she didn’t know what to do with the remains.