Relatives and friends of the 18-year-old Ohio woman accused of killing her newborn baby before burying it in a shallow grave behind her parent’s home have opened up about the allegations — and they insist the child was stillborn.
Brooke Skylar Richardson has entered not guilty pleas to the multiple charges she faces, PEOPLE confirms. The former cheerleader who had worked as a coach at a cheer camp is expected to stand trial in April.
Richardson and her parents have declined PEOPLE’s requests for interviews. But the teen’s relatives, including both sets of grandparents, spoke with Cincinnati Magazine to defend her against what they contend has been one-sided coverage of the case — including comments that have been made by prosecutors, inferring those close to Richardson must have known she was pregnant.
“Every single female member of our family is hurting, they are all beating themselves up over that,” the magazine quotes the girl’s uncle, Jay, as saying. “They never guessed and they would have supported her.”
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The article features an image that was taken just days before the delivery, before Richardson’s prom. It shows her in a tight-fitting maroon dress. A small bump is visible in her midsection.
“In hindsight, she does have a bump,” her aunt, Vanessa, told the magazine. “We are hating ourselves for that now. But at the time, we just thought she was eating good and not making herself throw up.”
All of Richardson’s relatives and friends told the magazine they believe she is innocent, and that they had no idea she was 38 to 40 weeks pregnant.
Her relatives revealed in the article that Richardson has battled eating disorders for much of her teen years. They even shared pictures showing Richardson’s drastic shifts in weight.
The family claim they were thrilled when she began putting on weight within the last year, but did not want to call attention to it by commenting on her figure.
Aunt: ‘Investigators Twisted’ Richardson’s Guilt
Those interviewed for the article say Richardson’s baby was born dead, and that the teen, both afraid and overwhelmed with guilt, buried the body in the backyard. Then, while getting a routine checkup at her gynecologist, Richardson told her doctor she had given birth to a stillborn baby, and investigators were subsequently tipped off July 14.
Richardson, the family claims, was questioned without legal counsel, and admitted she delivered a stillborn child. She even led police to the burial site, they claim.
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“Skylar is a pleaser, and she was already blaming herself about the baby being stillborn,” said her aunt, Vanessa. “She kept wrestling with the distressing idea that she may have somehow caused the baby to be born stillborn, and I think investigators twisted that around to prove that she is guilty of murder.”
“When they questioned her, I would say that they took her apart,” Jay added.
Richardson is free on $15,000 bond
Vanessa said that a new baby would have been a welcome addition to their growing family.
“This is 2017 in America. There is no stigma about unwed mothers, and it’s common these days,” she told Cincinnati Magazine. “There is so much love in our family. Skylar has so much support. We have a lot of young children in our family. This would not have been a problem.”