Brooke ‘Skylar’ Richardson is 19 years old.
She was born in March, 1999 in the middle of a snow storm to middle upper class parents Scott and Kim Richardson of Carlisle, Ohio.
According to her attorney, Charles Rittgers, Skylar was known as “a very good student. She didn’t drink. She wasn’t a partier or a smoker. By all measures a very good girl who helped children.”
Friends, family and classmates describe her as “so sweet and sensitive”.
“People only know her by her appearance,” high school friend Kiley Alcorn told The New York Post.
“She drove nice cars, lived in a nice house, but she was a good person on the inside too.”
Skylar was on the student council in her senior year at Carlisle High School, participated as a cheerleader, volunteered her time looking after children and children with disabilities in her local community.
The very same teenager also has Facebook groups dedicated to proving she’s a murderer. To seeing her spend the rest of her life behind bars, or worse.
“She’s already guilty and needs her uterus ripped out…” one user wrote about the blonde cheerleader.
Now, Skylar is on house arrest awaiting trial on five felony charges brought by Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell: aggravated murder, involuntary manslaughter, child endangerment, tampering with evidence, and gross abuse of a corpse.
All because she says she gave birth to a stillborn baby and buried it, because “that’s what you do with dead bodies”.
— Cosmopolitan (@Cosmopolitan) March 14, 2018
In a detailed investigation for Cosmopolitan, Sonia Chopra, a local news reporter for the Carlisle area, reports Skylar’s nightmare began on July 20, 2017.
According to the journalist, Skylar was swimming at her grandmother’s house when she received a phone call from her dad saying the police were at their family home. Authorities insisted the teenager come down to the station because she may have witnessed a crime.
But Skylar knew why they were there.
Without a lawyer or her parents present, the then-18-year-old told officers how two months earlier, she’d unexpectedly given birth to a stillborn baby. Not knowing what to do and wanting to keep it a secret from her conservative parents, she said she buried the infant. She showed officers where she’d done so between two trees in her backyard.
Then, six days later, the Warren County Sheriff’s Office issued a media release update:
“Brooke S. Richardson, 18, of Carlisle, was arrested and charged with one count of Reckless Homicide.”
The real nightmare, of course, would have been learning she was pregnant after visiting a gynaecologist, Dr. William Andrew, the first time while in her senior year of high school, and perhaps feeling like she couldn’t ask anyone for help.
Or 36 hours after dancing in a floor-length, sequinned red gown with her high school boyfriend Brandon at her senior prom, when she gave birth to an allegedly stillborn baby girl, Annabelle.
We don’t know many of the details of what happened on that night yet. In April, Skylar’s trial was postponed indefinitely. But here’s what we do know:
The Cosmopolitan investigation reports Skylar’s mum Kim says her daughter woke up in the middle of the night with stomach pains and gave birth quickly.
When she allegedly couldn’t find a pulse, Skylar took the infant’s body into the family’s backyard and buried it in a grave she dug herself, without her parent’s help or knowledge.
According to Cincinnati Magazine, Skylar's extended family, including grandparents, cousins Jay and Vanessa, her aunt and uncle who have been vocal in speaking with the media, claim the teen "felt scared and blamed herself". That, yes, the way she went about things wasn't right, but that her actions don't constitute murder.
"There is no stigma about unwed mothers, and it’s common these days. There is so much love in our family. Skylar has so much support," Vanessa said.
"We have a lot of young children in our family. This would not have been a problem."
Posecutor Fornshell disagrees, saying, "I’m not sure that we will ever be able to provide to you the exact medical cause of death and the reason that is, is because the child was born alive, and was after death burned and subsequently buried," The New York Post reports.
Regardless of whether Skylar is indeed innocent, in her home town, she is guilty. On the day of her bond hearing, the administrators of Skylar's Facebook hate groups stood outside the court holding signs reading 'Abortion is legal. Murder is not'.
Skylar is guilty, not under the law, but a trial by social media and small town gossip.
At least, she is in the eyes of the people of Carlisle, who may very well be the people of the jury.
And then what hope will she have?
If you or someone you know is struggling with infant loss, please seek professional help and contact SANDS on 1300 072 637. If you are in immediate danger, call 000.