Defense expert: Suspect in 4-year-old's slaying suffered from undiagnosed mental disorders
Posted March 20, 2014
Smithfield, N.C. — A forensic psychiatrist testified Thursday that several undiagnosed mental disorders could have been a factor for the alleged actions of Jonathan Douglas Richardson – on trial for the death of his girlfriend's 4-year-old daughter – nearly four years ago when prosecutors say he tormented, tortured and terrorized the child for 10 days.
Dr. Donna Schwartz-Watts, of Anderson, S.C., said she determined after his arrest that the 25-year-old likely suffered from anxiety disorder, mood disorder and substance abuse disorder.
At the time of the alleged crimes, she said, Richardson was a 21-year-old man with depression and a history of alcohol and drug abuse as well as improper punishment by his own father, who strictly disciplined him as a child and whipped him weekly with a belt.
But Schwartz-Watts said she does not think Richardson was under any post-traumatic stress while Teghan was in his care in July 2010. He had been keeping the girl while her mother – an Army reservist – was in New Mexico for military training.
"He was irritable. He was in a situation where he was punishing a child," Schwartz-Watts said. "He has no experience raising children. He's been punished in the past with affect and anger. He's punishing her for not listening to him, but in terms of his anxiety disorder, it's not related."
Defense attorneys say it was the mental disorders, his lack of experience with children, his own experiences of being abused as a child and his inability to control his anger that led to Teghan's death on July 19, 2010.
An autopsy determined she died of a traumatic head injury. Doctors have testified that the child had dozens of bite marks on her body and she was covered in bruises and abrasions. There were also injuries consistent with sexual assault – something Richardson's attorneys deny.
Richardson faces charges of first-degree murder, felony child abuse, kidnapping and sexual offense with a child. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.
The defense continues presenting its case Friday morning.