A COP who probed Brooke Skylar Richardson over her baby's death still believes the cheerleader killed her newborn – despite her being acquitted of murder.
Lt. John Faine, who is now retired, is one of the detectives accused in court of “coercing” Richardson into a murder confession when she was 18.
Richardson, from Ohio, US, was just a teen when she secretly gave birth in her bathroom and buried the newborn in her backyard in May 2017 – days after her prom.
She told the court her baby, who she named Annabelle, was stillborn.
But prosecutors claimed the baby was alive and accused the ex-cheerleader of smashing her newborn's skull with a rock and burning her body – claims she denied in court.
Last week, the jury sided with Richardson, now 20, and she was cleared of aggravated murder, involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment.
She was found guilty of gross abuse of a corpse – but was allowed to walk free with probation.
Despite her acquittal on the most serious charges, Lt. Faine has said he still believes Richardson killed the child.
“It was just the way she kept adamantly wanting to interject, ‘I didn't kill it. I didn't kill it’,” Lt. Faine told WLWT.
“Just from experience, a lot of times over the course of my career, people who are guilty are the ones who are so adamantly, defiantly, telling us overtly, ‘I didn't do this’.
“That was part of it, and then, just the secrecy.
"I still believe that the baby was alive.”
Lt. Faine said he noticed red flags during two interviews with Richardson in July 2017, which were six days apart.
After the first interrogation, they let her go without charge.
But in the second interview, Richardson admitted she may have heard the baby “gurgle” and even said “I think I may have killed her”.
When questioned by detectives she also admitted she may have burned the baby’s body “a little bit”.
The defence claims police were overzealous in questioning Richardson because they believed at the time she burned her baby.
Lt. Faine has claimed that just before he interviewed Richardson for the second time, a pathologist from the coroner's office told him “the bones were definitely charred”.
In the interrogation, Richardson repeatedly denied hurting or burning the baby, before eventually admitting to it.
The pathologist who said the bones had been burned later recanted the claim.
The defence called multiple witnesses in Richardson’s trial in attempts to show she was forced into making false admissions to police about the death and burning of her baby.
Cincinnati psychologist Stuart Bassman said "Skylar was manipulated" into making false statements during interrogations.
He described Richardson as a vulnerable, immature person whose dependent personality disorder makes her want to please authority figures, even to the point of making incriminating, untrue statements.
Her legal accused prosecutors of creating “a false narrative” to sensationalise the case.
They claimed Richardson kept quiet about her pregnancy because she didn’t realise she was due so soon and her response was normal for a scared teenager.
'SINISTER AND GROTESQUE'
“What started as an 18-year-old high school girl who was frightened and saddened because of giving birth to a stillborn baby whom she named Annabelle and then telling her doctor of the stillborn and burial in the backyard turned into something sinister and grotesque,” one of her representatives told the court.
During her sentencing, Richardson made a grovelling apology to the baby’s dad.
She said: “I am sorry. I can sometimes be selfish, but I’m getting better. I’m forever sorry.
“I’ve hurt a lot of people. I am really, really sorry. And I understand,” she added.
Judge Donald Oda sentenced Richardson, now 20, to seven days in jail for the corpse abuse charge, but she was credited for time already served.
She will instead serve three years of probation – but if she violates this, she can be locked up for up to a year in jail.
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