The parents of Brooke Skylar Richardson, the former cheerleader accused of killing a baby she gave birth to in secret and buried in her backyard, have spoken out for the first time since their daughter was acquitted of murder.
‘She did what she thought she needed to do. Maybe, outside looking in, that was wrong, but in her mind, she just delivered a stillborn baby,’ her father Scott Richardson told CBS’ 48 Hours.
Skylar, 20, was acquitted of murdering the baby – who she named Annabelle – after a highly publicized trial earlier this month. She was convicted of gross abuse of a corpse but was given time served and went home with her parents, Kim and Scott, a day after her conviction.
The Richardsons reveal the depths of her ‘very guarded’ daughter’s eating disorders, which helped mask the pregnancy and keep them in the dark for nearly a year as Skylar fell pregnant, gave birth, buried the infant and then didn’t say a word for two months following.
Brooke Skylar Richardson’s parents Kim and Scott reveal the depths of their daughter’s eating disorder and trial as they speak out for the first time on a CBS 48 Hours special
Skylar, now 20, was filmed for the special at the family’s home but was not interviewed
In this photo, Skylar is pictured in a bikini at seven months pregnant on a vacation with her family
These photos show Skylar’s body barely change throughout her pregnancy. She is pictured (left) on February 17, 2017 and (right) May 5, 2017 just days before she gave birth
For nearly a year, CBS’ 48 Hours followed the family, and though Skylar is unable to be interviewed, her parents speak at length about the ordeal.
When asked if their daughters keeps many secrets, mother Kim said: ‘Yes. So many, and we don’t know what they are. And I don’t know that we ever will.’
But despite their daughter’s secrets, her father Scott insists, ‘There’s no way she would ever hurt anyone.
Her mother added: ‘There’s no way. I would stake my life on it.’
‘Our lives had been completely turned upside down,’ said Kim. ‘I don’t know when it hit me but I was a grandmother and I never had any of the benefits of it.’
Skylar’s mother shared this new photo of her when she was eight months pregnant in April 2017 and said she could not tell she was carrying a baby
The show also reveals for the first time that Richardson was offered a plea deal by prosecutors.
Kim said: ‘It was a Sunday morning and she woke up and I can still see her sitting on the couch and she goes, “I’m not going to plea to something that I didn’t do.” And, in my heart I got sick but it has to be her decision. End of day, she has to live with this.’
And when Skylar was finally acquitted this month, Kim said wanted to ‘fall to her knees’.
‘She did the right thing by not taking the plea,’ she said.’I just wanted to be, like “you were right.” We felt free.’
Skylar gave birth in May 2017 in the upstairs bathroom of her family’s home in Carlisle, Ohio. She said the baby was a stillborn.
At the time, she was 18 and had been suffering from eating disorders for years. The baby’s father was not her boyfriend but a friend’s cousin she had briefly dated the previous summer.
Having told no one she was pregnant, she buried the lifeless baby in the family’s back yard and marked the spot with some flowers.
It was only when she went back to the same gynecologist who had told her she was pregnant to get birth control pills two months later that she confessed to what she’d done.
She was initially charged with murder, manslaughter, gross abuse of a corpse and child endangerment after a pathologist told police that she had burned the baby’s corpse.
The statement was based on the fact the bones looked darker in some areas. The pathologist recanted her statement but detectives had already coaxed Skylar into confessing to it.
In his interview, Skylar’s father Scott said they thought they were doing the right thing by having her cooperate.
‘We thought we were doing the right thing by cooperating. It turned out to be the absolute wrong thing.’
Skylar’s mother Kim, who did not testify at the trial, said her life was turned ‘upside down’
Skylar at home since being acquitted of murder and has entered an eating disorder treatment program
The 20-year-old broke down in tears as she was acquitted of murder earlier this month
In the interview, Kim insists she did not know about the pregnancy.
‘We missed everything,’ both she and Scott said.
Kim also shared a photograph of Skylar that was taken in April, weeks before she gave birth.
‘You cannot tell,’ she said of her figure.
In another photo, Skylar is pictured in a bikini at seven months pregnant on a vacation with her family.
‘She wore a two-piece. I told her she looked great. I mean, for the first time in my life, I thought she’s healthy, she’s in a healthy relationship, she really cares about Brandon. I could tell that she did.’
When she learned that her daughter had been pregnant and buried the baby, Kim said she was in shock.
‘I couldn’t feel my body. I could not get up. How could that happen? I’ve seen her every day. I look at her. I talk to her. I hug her,’ she said.
Skylar’s mother Kim said ‘You cannot tell,’ her daughter is pregnant in any of the photos during the full term pregnancy
This photo was taken of Skylar and her boyfriend Brandon on Spring Break in late March, while she was seven months pregant
Defense attorneys explained at her trial how no one in her family thought it was strange that she became larger during her pregnancy because they said her weight fluctuated so much anyway.
‘She looked healthy,’ her mother said of her growing belly. Her father chimed in: ‘We were actually pleased that she was finally gaining some weight.’
The Richardsons reveal in the interview that Skylar was diagnosed with body dysmorphia and would throw up to lose weight during cheerleading season.
This week Skylar entered into an eating disorder treatment program.
At the time of the trial Kim said Skylar was ‘not good’.
‘She’s about 90 pounds. She wears kids clothes. She has no clothes for court. Everything – we have to pin everything on her kind of like sew her in her clothes.
‘It’s a lifelong illness. She’ll have this all of her life. But we can do this,’ her mother says.
Prosecutors showed the jury this photograph of the infant’s skeletal remains after they were dug up from the family’s yard
Brooke Skylar Richardson is shown during her second police interview last July where she told police she set fire to her baby
This is the grave of baby Annabelle. She was laid to rest on Thursday in a private ceremony in Ohio. Skylar’s parents were given her remains after the trial, despite protestations from the baby’s father’s family. They, per the judge’s orders, have access to it
In one of her interviews, Skylar’s mother Kim described the ordeal as her ‘worst nightmare’ and said the family had been living in ‘purgatory’.
The family say they have been hounded for more than two years by the media storm the case created.
Kim, who prosecutors and defense attorneys said was ‘obsessed’ with her daughter’s weight, compared the scale of the publicity to the Super Bowl.
‘It felt like Super Bowl level. It was like the world stopped. Everyone wanted to know what was going on in our backyard and what had happened.
‘The sidewalk was lined with people sitting in lawn chairs. We have no privacy, we’re followed, stalked.
‘Facebook, to me, turned into “hate book,”‘ she said.
Scott said the family was ‘stalked’ and that they are still afraid to speak out.
‘I’m very scared. We’re scared to death talking to you. We don’t want things to come across wrong,’ he said.
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
The couple say that ultimately, Skylar’s mistake was that she buried the baby without telling anyone.
‘She had a stillborn and she made a poor choice after that, not telling anyone and burying the baby,’ her mother said.
Her father Scott said: ‘She gently laid the baby down in the ground. She didn’t have a casket. She buried the baby and laid a flower over top. She put a vase as a marker. You can see it from her window.’
Scott, who testified at the trial, said there was ‘no way’ she could ever have hurt the baby.
Skylar has never spoken publicly other than to apologize at her sentencing hearing.
‘I just wanted to say how sorry I was. I can sometimes be selfish, but I would like to think that I’ve become better with the knowledge that I’ve upset everyone and hurt so many people with what I’ve done and I’m forever sorry and I am so sorry. I — I am really, really sorry and I understand and thank you.’