A former Ohio high school cheerleader, who was acquitted Thursday of killing her unwanted newborn, told a court she was "really, really sorry" after a judge sentenced her to probation Friday for burying the corpse in her family backyard in 2017.
Brooke Skylar Richardson, 20, was found not guilty of aggravated murder, involuntary murder and child endangerment in the May 2017 death of her newborn daughter.
On Friday, a Warren County Judge ordered her to three years probation for the lesser charge of corpse abuse.
“I would do anything and above that you ask, and I understand and I just wanted to say how sorry I was," Richardson told the court. "I can sometimes be selfish but I would like to think that I’ve become better in the knowledge that I’ve upset everyone and hurt so many people with what I’ve done and I'm forever sorry and I'm so sorry. I’m really, really sorry and I understand.”
Judge Donald Oda II called her sentencing a “mandatory community control case” which requires at least placing the young woman on probation.
“What that means, Ms. Richardson," the judge said, "is because this is a felony of the fifth degree and you have no prior criminal record and you don’t fit the other statutory criteria, the most I am required by law to place you on community control.”
He continued: “That means the maximum I can sentence you to today, even though the maximum for this offense is 12 months in prison, the maximum I can sentence you to today is to six months of local incarceration.”
Despite this, Oda sentenced her to three years of “basic supervision” and seven days in a county jail, for which she already had time-served.
“Which means you’re going to be going home today,” Oda said.
“I firmly believe Ms. Richardson, in fact, I know in my heart that if you would have made different decisions in this case, Annabelle would be here today,” he said before sentencing, but added that he felt that her "choices before birth, during birth and after show a grotesque disregard for life.”
Prosecutors had alleged that Richardson, a high school cheerleader, was informed by her doctor in April 2017 that she was pregnant and would be giving birth in a “matter of weeks.” The then-18-year-old became extremely upset and told her doctor that she could not have the child and asked that she not tell anyone.
Days later, on May 7, she gave birth in the middle of the night. Prosecutors say she killed the baby and buried her in the backyard by a barbeque pit, disposing of all evidence, in order to maintain her "perfect life."
The remains were found that July in Carlisle, a village about 40 miles north of Cincinnati.
Richardson's defense team said the baby she named “Annabelle” was stillborn and that the teen was sad and scared.
The court heard a victim impact statement from Annabelle’s paternal grandmother, Tracey Johnson.
“Two years, four months, one week. In case you were wondering, that’s how old my granddaughter would be if she were here today,” she said. “As we live with our grief and loss, she (Richardson) can now live knowing her selfish decision was not her only choice. She had a way out.”