‘Unthinkable’: Cheerleader’s terrible guilt
A FORMER American cheerleader cleared of murdering her baby after her school formal said she was still "plagued by guilt" and wished she could have died in her daughter's place.
Now, the Ohio resident has spoken out for the first time, telling Cosmopolitan her biggest regret was not having the strength to tell someone she was pregnant.
"I spent a lot of my time depressed," Richardson said. "Every night, I would lie down and wish that I could have died in place of Annabelle.
"I wish I would have done it differently. I'm plagued by guilt every day for not telling someone."
Richardson, who was cleared of aggravated murder, involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment in September, was found guilty of the gross abuse of a corpse.
But the judge berated her "grotesque disregard for life" before and after the birth.
Her family held a memorial for little Annabelle in a plot far away from their hometown last month.
Richardson told the magazine she was a grieving mother, not a monster, who visited her daughter's memorial "every week".
She named her stillborn child as she buried her in a shallow grave while her parents and brother slept in May 2017.
But Richardson insisted that she didn't murder her baby girl.
"It was so hard to live knowing the truth but to have the whole world think otherwise," she said. "The people out there who hate me so much and wish horrible things upon me also do not know me."
Richardson became a pariah in her small town of Carlisle where locals and media camped outside her family home taking pictures in the lead-up to the trial.
Prosecutor David Fornshell claimed that Richardson and her mum, Kim, were obsessed with image and appearance, telling reporters that Richardson had burned the baby alive with no medical proof.
Cosmo reports that Richardson repeated 17 times that she did not burn her baby during an interrogation before finally giving in when detectives insisted that cremation was "normal - it's in the Bible".
During the trial, Cincinnati psychologist Stuart Bassman said she "was being manipulated" into making false statements during these interrogations.
Richardson said she regretted her actions.
"Inside, I felt like I was dying," she said. "Very few things have been harder than having to listen to prosecutors allege horrible, unthinkable things of me and put countless photos of my daughter's bones on a big screen."
At the trial in September, she weighed less than 40kg as her struggles with an eating disorder returned.
Starving and purging herself was the only control she had as her life spiralled out of control, Richardson said.
Still, she said she couldn't plead guilty - even if it meant a more lenient sentence - when she was innocent.
But said the global attention in the lead-up to the trial meant the majority of people thought she was guilty regardless.
Cosmo reports that during the courtroom drama, Tracy Johnson, the mother of Trey, Annabelle's DNA dad, who Richardson dated for three weeks, was a constant presence throughout the trial with a box of tissues.
Richardson always protested her innocence throughout the sensational trial.
'SOMETHING NEEDED TO COME OUT'
Richardson always had irregular periods and was horrified to learn she was pregnant when she went to Dr William Andrew for birth control pills in April 2017.
She was supposed to go to the University of Cincinnati to study psychology and was too terrified to reveal her secret after the appointment.
On May 5, 2017, Richardson attended her school formal with her boyfriend Brandon and left the festivities because she felt unwell.
The following day, the cramps intensified and Richardson felt "that something needed to come out" when she went to the toilet.
A baby girl, deathly white and without the umbilical cord attached, came out with no heartbeat, Richardson told Cosmopolitan leading to her decision to bury the child and tell no one.
When she tried to get birth control a few months after burying her daughter, the doctor questioned her about her pregnancy.
Although Richardson thought she would not get in trouble because the baby was stillborn, the GP alerted the authorities. Two days later, Richardson was being questioned by police without her parents or a lawyer present.
Police found the baby's remains about two months after she gave birth.
Meanwhile, Ashley, one of Richardson's friends from middle school, told Cosmo that "women shouldn't be blamed" for having a stillborn child: "It's sickening what they have done to her."
Ms Johnson told the court during her address that "Skylar's selfish decision was not her only choice".
Richardson said although she was a "hard worker," the only employment she could find was working for her lawyers, father-son team Charlie H. and Charlie M. Rittgers.
The magazine reports she hopes to pursue a career with the Ohio Innocence Project and has signed up for paralegal classes at a community college next March.
This article originally appeared on The Sun and was reproduced with permission