The tiny bones of a baby girl who was buried by her cheerleader mother in her backyard within hours of being born in 2017 were shown to a jury at the teen's murder trial on Friday.
Brooke 'Skylar' Richardson, now 20, was 18 when she gave birth in secret in her parents' house in May 2017. She says the baby was born dead and that she buried her in the backyard within an hour or so of the birth.
Prosecutors believe she killed the baby herself because she was hell-bent on going to college without being a mother.
On Friday, the third day of her murder and manslaughter trial, prosecutors called Dr. Susan Brown, a forensic pathologist who performed an autopsy on the baby's remains and determined that she had been murdered.
Dr. Brown said that while she could not determine how the baby died, she believed Skylar killed her based off of comments she made in an interview with the police, where Skylar, after repeatedly denying hurting the baby, eventually said she took a lighter to the baby's skin, to make her assessment.
Her attorneys say the comment was coerced and made out of desperation after police said they 'knew' she did 'something with fire'.
The jury was shown photographs of the remain which were dug up in Skylar's family's back yard and were also shown the baby's shallow grave.
They had been laid out on a table to form a tiny skeleton. As they were being shown, Skylar fought tears.
The prosecution's case hinges on since retracted remarks made by Dr. Elizabeth Murray, a pathologist who had been hired by Dr. Brown to consult on the remains.
She, at first, said they appeared to have been burned which led prosecutors to follow the theory that Skylar set the baby on fire. When detectives questioned Skylar for a second time, she repeatedly denied having done so but, after denying it 17 times, said she took a lighter to the baby's skin.
Parts of that interrogation were played on court Friday.
During it, the cops told the teenager 'we know there was some sort of fire'.
She was stunned at the suggestion, saying: ''I didn't burn her! I promise, I didn't burn her!'
The police asked her repeatedly if she was sure, and she answered: 'I swear!... I did nothing with fire. Nothing.'
The cops asked if she had put her in the fire pit in her yard, or even in the microwave or oven but she said no, repeatedly.
'We know there was some sort of fire,' they eventually said.
Skylar replied: 'I don't understand it.'
Dr. Brown said during Friday's testimony that she based her assessment - that the baby died as a result of homicidal violence - on those remarks, her assessment of the baby's remains and on the scene at the house, where detectives had written in notes that there had been an 'attempted incineration'.
She said she could not confirm by looking at the bones alone that they had been burned, or that the baby had been born alive or dead.
'By looking at the bones alone with no other information, there's nothing that I can say just by looking at the bones that there is a live birth.
'As part of my job, I am required to look at all of the information. So I did that. That included the scene information and the information gathered during the police interview...my evidence was based on her interview,' she conceded, under cross-examination.
She also admitted on Friday that despite claiming to have based her findings on the 'scene', Dr. Brown said she never saw any photographs of the baby's grave.
While the bones showed that the baby suffered skull fractures, Dr. Brown said she could not tell if they had been inflicted before or after she died.
'I identified the fractures of the skull, however did also clarify that I don't know if they were are before death or after death but they are there,' she said.
Dr. Brown then went on to say that neither she nor Dr. Murray examined the bones with a microscope.
A different doctor who examined the baby's remains found that the skull fractures were not a result of homicidal violence.
Skylar's attorney Charles H. Rittgers eviscerated the pathologist on cross-examination.
They pointed out that it would be impossible for a human to be set on fire with a lighter alone and that a baby's body was made mostly of water, making it even more implausible.
They laughed when the pathologist said that a person's hair could be set on fire and also asked why the pathologist did not take into account Skylar's original claim, during her first police interview, that there was no umbilical chord attached when she gave birth to the baby.
'An umbilical chord not being attached would mean at some point it broke,' the doctor said.
'Would the baby die as a result?' Skylar's attorneys asked, pointing out that it would mean the baby was not being given oxygen and nutrients.
'A baby can die in those circumstances,' Dr. Brown said.
The defense accused brown of 'confirmation bias', saying she only gave her attention to anything that would support the notion that the baby had been set alight.
'You ignored a tonne of facts that would indicate that this baby was stillborn.
'You didn't get an OB consult. You didn't pay attention to the fact that Skylar was bleeding on April 3,' he said, saying all of them would have pointed to her having a stillbirth.
Skylar, a cheerleader with a history of eating disorders, found out she was pregnant in April 26 during a visit to the gynaecologist.
She had gone to obtain birth control pills and was told that she was around 32 weeks pregnant.
She claimed, in police interviews, that she had suspected she was pregnant but had tried to put it out of her head until then.
The doctor said the baby was healthy and urged Skylar to tell someone. Because she was 18, he was not obliged to talk to her parents.
After her doctor's appointment, she left the practice and told no one about the pregnancy. Despite being pregnant, she was able to get a prescription to birth control pills which she began taking that day, later claiming that she did not know it court harm the infant.
On May 7, just 11 days after the doctor visit, in the middle of the night, Skylar claims she gave birth on the toilet of her bathroom while her parents slept.
In her police interview, she said the baby came out 'white', with her eyes closed, and was not breathing.
On Friday, a state expert witness testified that it was unlikely the baby would have died in between her visit to the doctor on April 26 and the day she gave birth.
Dr. William Brady, a fetal medicine expert, said it would be unusual for her to lose the baby and that there was no evidence to suggest the baby was at risk of harm.
The defense asked the doctor how much he had been paid by the state to appear.
He said he charges $5,000 a day for court appearances and $500 an hour for any preparation that is required beforehand.
During her police interview, Skylar told said she held her baby in a towel, 'waiting for her to wake up', after delivering her.
When she didn't, she said she went to her garage, retrieved a shovel, and dug a 'little' hole for her.
Later that day, Skylar texted her mother Kim, who was 'obsessed' with her teenage daughter's weight, saying how 'happy' she was that her 'belly' was 'back'.
She also took a selfie in the gym where she proudly examined how her stomach had flattened. Kim did not know she was pregnant or that she had given birth hours earlier. It was common for the pair to discuss Skylar's weight.
For two months, the baby remained a secret.
It was only when Skylar went back to the same doctor's practice where she learned she was pregnant, asking for more birth control pills, and an obstetrician asked her what had happened to her baby that she buckled and said she'd 'buried' it in her yard.
The doctors then alerted the authorities and the baby was dug up.
On Thursday, the jury was shown Skylar's first interview with the police where she sobbed and said: 'I did not try and kill my baby, I would never hurt her.'
She was released without charge after that interview but was brought back in for questioning once the remains had been examined.
There, she said she'd taken a lighter to the baby's skin.
Her attorneys say that the comment was coerced by the detectives and that it was based on the since retracted claims of the pathologists.