The trial for Brooke Skylar Richardson, the former cheerleader accused of burying her newborn baby in her parents' backyard, is officially underway, with lawyers for both sides delivering their opening statements Wednesday.
Richardson, then 18, was a popular cheerleader at Carlisle High School in Ohio. But when she learned she was pregnant, prosecutors say, she kept the baby a secret, eventually giving birth to the child alone and burying its remains.
Richardson's lawyers claim the baby was stillborn and the grieving mother buried her child in a marked grave, a sign of the depth of her feeling for the infant.
"The baby is white, umbilical cord not attached, not breathing," defense lawyer Charlie Rittgers told the jury Wednesday. "She grabs a towel and swaddles her child. ... She names her daughter Annabelle. She stands up, walks downstairs and gets a tiny shovel and walks outside to a tree line that is visible from her bedroom window and digs a shallow grave. She puts Annabelle inside and covers it with dirt and a flower pot."
But prosecutors claim she killed the child, not wanting it to ruin her perfect life.
"When the moment of truth was upon her, she took her newborn’s life and disposed of that body behind the home ... destroyed any evidence of her daughter’s existence before going back to bed," assistant prosecutor Steven Knippen said.
Among the evidence Knippen pointed to was a text exchange between Richardson and her mother shortly after the child was born, with Richardson writing in part, "I’m literally speechless with how happy I am. My belly is back omg I am never ever ever letting it get like this again."
She even went to the gym, posting pictures of how good she looked on social media.
“I’m literally so excited for dinner to wear something cute yayy my belly is back now I am takin this opportunity to make it amazing," she texted her mom.
Rittgers argued that texts and posts about weight were common for Richardson, who had a history of battling eating disorders.
Various witnesses were also called to the stand Wednesday, including the child's father, who said he had no idea Richardson was pregnant. The man, who asked that his face not be shown, said they had sex just twice before Richardson dumped him, breaking off all contact.
Richardson's doctor also testified, saying she didn't even realize she was pregnant until she was about six months along. The doctor, who also did not want to be seen, said Richardson seemed surprised when he told her she was pregnant.
Richardson, now 20, faces multiple charges, including aggravated murder. She has pleaded not guilty.