Brooke “Skylar” Richardson went from being a seemingly perfect 18-year-old cheerleader to an accused murerer essentially overnight — and now, friends and prosecutors alike are looking for answers. It all began when authorities got a tip from a doctor that the teen, who goes by Skylar, may have delivered a stillborn baby; as a follow-up, authorities searched her family’s property and discovered the charred remains of a baby girl and promptly arrested Skylar for aggravated murder, involuntary manslaughter, child endangerment, tampering with evidence, and gross abuse of a corpse.

Though investigators are arguing that she killed her child — who was in fact born alive — in an effort to maintain the facade of perfection, her lawyer Charles Rittgers hasn’t offered any defense, only insisting that she didn’t kill her newborn. After enterting not guilty pleas, her lawyer told reporters, “She is a good person, a high honors student. She has never been in any trouble of any kind.”

In an interview with her local Cincinnati Magazine her relatives — including both sets of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins — came to Skylar’s defense and said there is no way she’s responsible for what they’re accusing her of. According to her aunt, Skylar kept her family in the dark about her pregnancy and was scared and unsupported when the baby was allegedly stillborn. In her shock, she panicked and buried the baby in her backyard. While they agree that her behavior wasn’t “proper,” it wasn’t, they insist, murder.

“Skylar is a pleasing, and she was already blaming herself about the baby being stillborn,” one relative, her Aunt Vanessa, said. “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.”

skylar richardson
Warren County Sheriff’s Office

Though she felt unsupported, Vanessa said she has no doubts that Skylar’s news would’ve been positively met by her family had she shared with them. Last year, Vanesssa told the mag, “This is 2017 in America. There is no stigma about unwed mothers, and it’s common these days. 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.”

Since a gag order was placed on the case last summer, the prosecution has been forbidden from discussing the case, but Skylar’s family has long felt that the way they handled the case publicly already disrupted the justice they feel the teen is entitled to. “I think it’s extremely unprofessional for the prosecutor to tweet and Facebook share news of the case. He has made the public think that [Skylar] is a terrible persn and she’s not. All this publicity will hurt her,” her uncle, Jay, said. “All our lives, we have been a family who have worked hard at our jobs and built stable lives. We have solid reputations and now everyone just looks down at us.”

Vanessa agreed the prosecutor is problematic. “It’s a game to them,” she said. “They just want to win.”

Skylar is expected to stand trial later this year.

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