Warren County prosecutors say a motion to dismiss charges against a Carlisle woman charged in connection with the death of her baby are “groundless.”
A motion filed earlier this month by attorneys Charles H. and Charles M. Rittgers argues the indictment against Brooke Skylar Richardson should be dismissed due to “defects in the institution of prosecution of this case … the state’s deprivation of Miss Richardson’s constitutional rights to a fair trial and due process.”
The motion is also asking for grand jury testimony to be reviewed “in camera” or by a judge and attorneys, specifically that of forensic anthropologist Dr. Elizabeth Murray, who examined the remains of the baby girl when they were unearthed.
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The defense attorneys say the prosecution presented information about Murray’s testimony to a grand jury when seeking to indict Richardson that she has since recanted.
“The indictment and prosecution in this case are defective because both are based on Dr. Murray’s recanted belief that the bones she examined were charred,” the defense attorneys wrote in the motion.
Murray later realized that her belief that the bones were charred was incorrect after a second examination of remains on Aug. 17, 2017, according to the defense.
In a response, Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell and Assistant Prosecutor Steven Knippen said that when “considering Richardson’s statements to law enforcement, which the defense team his aware of, her suggestion that the state’s prosecution of her is unconstitutional is nonsensical.”
The prosecution says the defense “conveniently ignores substantial additional evidence, including the video of Richardson’s own statements to law enforcement.”
Prosecutors do not intend to call Murray at trial, but in the motion state that her opinions relate only to the charring of the bones.
“She (Murray) did not speak to whether the outer layers of the baby’s body were burned,” Knippen wrote in the prosecution’s response. “Therefore, her opinions do not negate evidence that Richardson burned her baby. They certainly do not negate evidence that Richardson caused the death of her baby, created a substantial risk to the health or safety of her baby or buried the baby.
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The defense motion included email messages between Murray and Dr. Susan Allen, forensic pathologist at the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office. In an email sent on Sept. 6, 2017 about the charred body issue, Murray indicates the baby had skull fractures.
“I even said to them, whether the bone was burned or not, that baby was still dead, had unexplained skull fractures, and was buried in the back yard,” Murray wrote to Allen. “I don’t understand why the burning takes it up a notch. They told me it’s all about what she said at one time or another and how her story changed. Well that’s their problem, I guess I am sorry if I spoke out of turn, but it was my strong feeling the bones were burned in July and then less so in August - which is perhaps some basis for always doing a second look. If we only had time.”
Two years ago, Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell said the cause of the baby’s death is uncertain.
“We may never know the medical cause of the baby’s death,” he said in August 2017.
The defense said in the motion that the email correspondence between Murray and Allen refers to Murray’s erroneous belief that the bones were charred as “a crucial part of (the Warren County Prosecutor’s Office’s) game plan.”
Murray told Allen that when it came to the Warren County Prosecutor’s Office and her decision to recant her original opinion that the bones were burned, “I ain’t gonna lie to them, but I sure ain’t gonna lie for them,” according to an email.
Richardson, now 20, is charged with aggravated murder, involuntary manslaughter, endangering children, tampering with evidence and abuse of corpse.
A pre-trial hearing is set for Monday ahead of Richardson’s scheduled trial on Sept. 3.
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