LEBANON, Ohio (WDTN) – Brooke Skylar Richardson’s brother testified as a character witness during the last day of testimony in her trial Wednesday.
Richardson is charged with aggravated murder, manslaughter and abuse of a corpse relating to the death of her infant daughter in May 2017. Richardson delivered the baby eight days after finding out she was pregnant at a local OBGYN.
It was the last day of testimony as the defense rested its case. The prosecution said it would not offer a rebuttal. The prosecution’s case ran the first three days of the trial.
Closing arguments will begin on Thursday at 9 a.m. The jury is expected to begin deliberations afterward.
Richardson cracked a smile for the first time during the trial when her brother Jackson testified about past family holidays. He mentioned going to their grandparents’ houses, visiting with relatives and seeing other kids in the family.
Attorney Charles M. Rittgers asked him how the case has affected the family. He said it’s been tough. He described Richardson as “his sister and best friend.” He said his mom has cried a lot, and his dad has cried.
“My mom is always afraid people are watching,” he said. Richardson began crying, wiping tears off her face.
Other character witnesses included her high school guidance counselor, an English teacher and a school friend who is now attending Georgetown College in Kentucky.
Psychologist says Richardson suffered abuse from boy
Defense psychologist Stuart Bassman testified Skylar Richardson had been sexually abused when she was 12 by an older boy.
He said the abuse was part of her developing a mental disorder that leaves her predisposed to bow to authority figures.
“The consequence is you can not stand up for yourself,” Bassman said. “The person with this disorder is terrified of confrontation, terrified of being abandoned and rejected.”
He said this explained why Richardson would echo language from police during the interrogation.
Prosecution: Richardson’s profile fits women who commit ‘neonaticide’
Assistant prosecutor Julie Kraft questioned Bassman as to the pressures she was under from family and to make it to college, which could lead her to kill an unwanted baby.
Kraft left a list of traits on a checklist on the screen in the courtroom and questioned if they fit Richardson. After debate with Bassman, she filled in the checkmarks and said they fit the description of a young mother who commits neonaticide.
“It’s easy to get a checklist and check it off and believe that,” Bassman said. “To make any type of conclusion based on that is frightening.”
Forensic pathologist declares baby’s death ‘undetermined’
Forensic pathologist Dr. Mark LeVaughan testified as a defense witness in the afternoon. He performed an exam on the remains of Richardson’s baby and declared its cause of death “undetermined.”
He disagreed with Dr. Susan Brown’s autopsy results and testimony for the prosecution on Sept. 6. Brown, who performed the official autopsy on the baby while working for the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office, said the baby’s death was due to homicidal violence from skull fractures.
Dr. Krista Latham from the University of Indianapolis, testified later the same day and said her opinion was the skull fractures weren’t from homicidal violence but happened after the baby had died.