Brooke Richardson is accused of killing and burying her newborn daughter in her backyard in July 2017

By Steve Helling
September 11, 2019 01:14 PM

A psychiatrist took the stand on Wednesday morning and told the jury that Brooke Skylar Richardson was sexually abused and suffers from a “personality disorder” in which she feels like she must please authority figures.

Dr. Stuart Bassman testified that the 20-year-old woman was sexually abused when she was 12 by an older boy who “she looked up to.” He also said that she would retreat into “her very lonely, isolated world” when things went wrong.

Brooke Richardson is accused of killing and burying her newborn daughter in her backyard in July 2017. Prosecutors allege she did not want to be an 18-year-old single mom. Richardson’s attorneys argued that the baby was stillborn and didn’t meet the legal criteria to be considered a child.

Richardson, now 20, is facing trial for aggravated murder, involuntary manslaughter, gross abuse of a corpse and child endangerment. She has pleaded not guilty. On Tuesday, a judge threw out a charge of tampering with evidence, saying that the prosecution did not meet its burden of proof on that charge.

Greg Lynch/The Journal-News via AP

Prosecutors allege that Richardson did not want to be a single teen mom with college only a few months away. In the weeks after learning of her pregnancy, Richardson didn’t return for an ultrasound, bloodwork, or any other treatment, while also ignoring calls from the doctor and assistants, prosecutors have said.

In a police interview played in court last Thursday, Richardson allegedly told police that she didn’t return her doctor’s phone calls because she was scared. “I didn’t really want to have my baby,” she told police. “I really don’t know what I planned to do.”

She also told police that she looked into an abortion, but it was too late to have one. She denied that she performed an abortion on herself.

Nick Graham/The Journal-News via AP

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Prosecutors allege that she intentionally killed her baby, despite the fact that the medical examiner was unable to determine a cause of death. They also allege that she searched “how do I get rid of a baby” upon finding out she was pregnant.

Richardson’s attorneys have repeatedly admitted she buried the child’s remains in her parents’ backyard — but they say she only did so after the baby was stillborn and she didn’t know what to do with the remains.

Bassman told the court that Richardson was terrified of rejection and abandonment by authority figures, which is why she might have concealed her pregnancy. He added that it was “remarkable” that she ever contradicted the police allegations during her questioning.

Testimony in the case is expected to last for the rest of the week.