In May of 2017, it appeared the biggest thing happening in Brooke Skylar Richardson's life was prom and her impending graduation from Carlisle High School in Carlisle, Ohio. But before summer was over, the college-bound 18-year-old (who goes by her middle name) stood accused of killing and discarding the remains of the baby she'd been secretly pregnant with during the latter part of her senior year.
Now 20, Richardson's trial began jury selection and opening statements this week. As the trial unfolds, more details about what transpired leading up to and immediately after the death of "Baby Jane Done" may become clearer. One major mystery so far is the identity of the father of Brooke Skylar Richardson's baby. But here's everything we do know so far.
Brooke Skylar Richardson broke up with the student believed to be her baby's father in August 2016.
Details are thin about the guy who was in Richardson's life the summer before her senior year. They had only been dating for a month according to a pre-voir dire statement given by Warren County Assistant Prosecutor Julie Kraft.
The state's case so far indicates Richardson cut off all contact with the father and it doesn't sound like he even knew she was expecting, nor is he suspected of involvement in Baby Jane Doe's death.
In fact, the only other person who knew Richardson was pregnant was her OBGYN. The teen had struggled with eating disorders, and her friends and family felt relief rather than suspicion when they noticed her putting on some weight over her senior year.
Richardson's boyfriend, Brandon, isn't believed to be the father.
In the winter of 2017, Richardson began seeing a junior named Brandon, who also was unaware of her pregnancy over several months of dating. At her mother Kim's suggestion, Skylar Richardson went to see a gynecologist about getting on birth control in April of 2017, which is when a pregnancy test revealed she was pregnant, according to interviews with family.
She was told she was probably 32 weeks along, but the doctor gave her a prescription anyway so her mom wouldn't be suspicious. However, according to Richardson's family, the doctor did this along with urging her to let her family know the truth as soon as possible.
Richardson's story, according to her defense, is that she thought she had 10 weeks to notify her family and that the baby was born prematurely, just two days after she celebrated prom with her classmates.
"Skylar thought she had 10 weeks to tell her mom, listen to her anguish, tell her boyfriend who didn’t know she was pregnant," defense attorney Charlie Rittgers said in his own introductory statement to prospective jurors.
"She thinks she has two months: eight to 10 weeks. She thinks she can go to prom and graduate from high school before her mother gives her angst for being pregnant.”
But according to Richardson's family and her attorney, her baby was stillborn, and her guilt and panic that she may have been responsible for her baby not surviving led her to bury its body in the middle of the night.
The defense says Baby Richardson was born dead; the prosecution sows doubt.
According to a press conference given in August 2017 by district attorney David P. Fornshell, Baby Jane Doe was born alive and the defendant killed her and buried the body.
He alleged that Richardson burned the corpse with a lighter, though this is one of the many claims her defense attorney disputes. Rittgers says the doctor who suggested this in an initial report later recanted the claim, but prosecutors and detectives made no adjustment to their case against his client.
While Richardson admitted to trying to "cremate" the body during an interview with police, her attorney says she did this only after hours of questioning by investigators "broke her down." The defense says their case will establish reasonable doubt on all the charges, the severest of which is aggravated murder. Richardson also faces charges of child endangerment, evidence tampering, and "gross abuse of a corpse." She faces a potential life sentence if convicted.