The cheerleader who buried her baby in her backyard after giving birth in secret was found not guilty of murder, manslaughter and child endangerment on Thursday.
Skylar Richardson, 20, had been facing life in prison if convicted of all the charges.
They include aggravated murder, manslaughter, gross abuse of a corpse and child endangerment.
After only a few hours on Thursday, a jury found her not guilty of the most serious charges but convicted her of gross abuse of a corpse.
She wept as the verdict was read out in court and told her parents as she was led away in handcuffs afterwards ‘I love you’.
Her mother Kim whispered back to her: ‘We love you baby.’
Skylar now faces a maximum of one year behind bars. The minimum sentence for gross abuse of a corpse in Ohio, where the trial took place, is six months imprisonment.
In May 2017, Skylar gave birth in the middle of the night to a baby girl she called Annabelle.
Skylar Richardson, 20, had been facing life in prison if convicted of all the charges.
Skylar buckled in tears, as did her mother behind her. She folded into the arms of one of her attorneys as the not guilty verdicts were read out
She told no one that she was pregnant and her family says they could not tell because her weight fluctuated so much as it was.
Skylar said she gave birth to a stillborn on the toilet in the upstairs bathroom of her family home in Carlisle, Ohio. She buried the baby afterwards in her backyard and was caught two months later when she tearfully confessed to a gynecologist what she had done.
Prosecutors believe the baby was born alive and that Skylar killed her because she did not want her to intervene with her ‘perfect life’.
On Thursday, both prosecutors and defense attorneys presented their closing arguments.
Prosecutors said it was ‘convenient’ for her to have given birth to a dead baby and asked jurors not to believe her.
Skylar is shown arriving with her parents earlier in the day
Prosecutors shared photos of the baby’s grave and her bones in their closing arguments and also included the text Skylar sent her mother about her belly being ‘back’ in the hours after she gave birth but it was not enough to convince the jury that she wanted the baby dead
‘All of the stars did not just align for her to have a stillborn child that she didn’t want, told no one about, made no preparations for and concealed and buried her in the backyard, all so that she could maintain the appearance and image of her perfect life. That’s ridiculous,’ one of the prosecutors said.
They also referred back to a text message Skylar sent her mother in the hours after she delivered the baby where she said she was happy to have her ‘belly back’.
Her mother, Kim, was obsessed with her daughter’s weight and they frequently discussed it.
‘If you want to know how she truly felt about her daughter, after just putting her in the ground, what washer reaction, before she was ever charged, before she ever spoke with the police, back when she thought she got away with everything.
‘I’m literally speechless with how happy I am.’
The jury deliberated for three hours then returned two questions to the court.
Skylar is pictured on May 5, two days before she gave birth, with her then boyfriend Brandon Saylor before they went to prom. She had a full baby bump but no one realized she was pregnant – though she had been told by doctors that she was – because her weight fluctuated so much
The teenager took this selfie hours after giving birth after going to the gym on May 7, 2017
Skylar and Brandon are pictured in March 2017, around six weeks before she gave birth, during a Spring Break trip. He was not the baby’s father and began dating her when she was already pregnant
They asked: ‘Can we please have a simplified definition of abuse of a corpse’ and ‘Is it against the LAW to bury a body in your yard without knowledge.’
The judge referred them to earlier instructions.
On Wednesday, as the defense rested its case, they called on a psychologist who had treated Skylar when she was younger to testify.
He said that she had been sexually abused as a 12-year-old boy a ‘boy’ she trusted and ‘looked up to’ and that it had given her a personality disorder.
The personality disorder, he said, fed her anorexia and made her eager to please.
‘Skylar shared with me, when she was 12 or so, she was having insecurity about her appearance, whether she would be liked, whether she would be accepted, typical behavior… so a boy started showing her attention, a boy that Skylar looked up to, who Skylar admired.
‘She began to respond, and then he began to abuse her. He began to abuse her sexually,’ Dr. Stuart Bassman said.
He went on to say that as a result of the incident and the subsequent ‘disorder’, she was ‘unable to defend herself’.
Prosecutors objected to the testimony, claiming it was irrelevant.
As part of their defense, Skylar’s attorneys showed photos of how her weight fluctuated before she became pregnant (above) within the space of six months. She’d suffered from anorexia for years beforehand, her family says, and was under pressure from her mother to stay slim
Skylar is shown in during her second police interview last July where she told police she set fire to her baby
Prosecutors showed the jury this photograph of the infant’s skeletal remains after they were dug up from the family’s yard
Other witnesses called to the stand were high school teachers at her school who said she often sat with autistic children at lunch so that they did not have to eat alone, and her classmates who say she was so meek at school that they had to defend her from bullies.
‘I’ve never even seen Skylar be mean to another human being she would never hurt another human being, especially her own baby,’ one teenage girl said.
Her younger brother, Jackson, also testified. He described her as his ‘best friend’ and recalled how she would sneak food, like donuts, while her parents were not home.
Skylar, who has remained relatively emotionless throughout the trial, cried as he spoke.
The defense’s final witness was a marketing expert who had made a virtual design of the family’s home.
It is unclear why they called him beyond trying to humanize Skylar and show the bathroom where she gave birth and her bedroom.
The teenager conceived Annabelle in August 2016 after a brief fling with another teen, Trey Johnson.
She says she did know that she was pregnant until April 2017, long after she had broken up with Johnson, during a visit to a gynecologist to obtain birth control pills.
The doctors told her she had around 10 weeks to deliver the baby, but 11 days later, she have birth at around 3am in her family home.
Skylar did not tell anyone in the 11 days between the two incidents that she was pregnant. She convinced her mother, who received an email which referred to her being pregnant, that it was a mistake and started taking birth control pills.
She said later that she did not know what she would do when the baby was born and that she ‘didn’t think about it’.
After giving birth to the baby, Skylar dug her a shallow grave in her family’s yard and buried it, marking the spot with flowers.
She then returned to the gynecologist, looking for more birth control pills, and confessed to what she had done when asked by the doctor what became of her pregnancy.
On July 14, she was taken in for questioning by the police. During the interrogation, she said she’d given birth to a stillborn and panicked afterwards so buried her in the yard.
She was released without charge.
Six days later, on July 20, she was hauled back to the police station. There, detectives told her that they ‘knew’ she had tried to set fire to the baby or the area around the baby.
They were basing their comments on a claim made by a forensic pathologist who had been asked to consult on the case. That pathologist told them that because the bones they had excavated in Skylar’s yard looked slightly darker, they believed they had been charred.
The pathologist later changed their opinion and another has since admitted that there is no physical evidence on the baby’s body to show it was in any way burned.
But in her second police interview, after denying burning the baby at all multiple times, Skylar told the detectives, at their direction, that she had tried to ‘cremate’ the baby with a lighter.
She also said she ‘might’ have squeezed her ‘too hard’ and that while she thought the baby was born dead, she might have in fact accidentally killed her.
Skylar’s father Scott took the stand on Tuesday and told the court it was the biggest regret of his life that his daughter did not have an attorney present for the second interview.