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Defense expert: Suspect in 4-year-old's slaying suffered from undiagnosed mental disorders

Posted March 20

Teghan Alyssa Skiba

— 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.

16 Comments

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  • 678devilish Mar 21, 3:12 p.m.

    This person may have had health issues, but it doesn't make sense to now discover his condition after this child loss her life. If he has this mental disorder, then put him away for life so he will never harm a child or anyone else.

  • luvstoQ Mar 21, 12:50 p.m.

    He is sooo evil and, like many today, trying to blame his actions on others! What a slimey piece of humanity!

    I was physically corrected as a child, corrected our children the same and we didn't suffer negatively from it. In fact, punishment was seldom needed as it soon became apparent that not obeying was not the way to go. Really makes for some 'good' children today when there is no real consequences for actions (not). We didn't have big problems in schools either.

    There 'is' a 'proper' way to correct children and definitely don't condone abusing your authority. I was never abused, and my children will tell you the same about themselves. (light spankings 'are not beatings').

  • westernwake1 Mar 21, 12:31 p.m.

    This is a horrific case that just begs for the death penalty. Sadly I don't think it is on the table.

  • Honesty first Mar 21, 11:41 a.m.

    I wonder how much this "expert" was paid to come up with a defense that he was mistreated as a child and he was irritable. You could not pay me enough to make up this garbage and testify. Does this person really believe this and if not, it is perjury.

  • brandy213122 Mar 21, 9:48 a.m.

    He was sane enough to "video tape" his tortures. That's a saddist not a crazy person.

  • brandy213122 Mar 21, 9:45 a.m.

    half of the worlds population suffers from mental disorders...I got the belt and other "tools "... View More

    — Posted by tarzappa

    I totally agree. I get tired of hearing how bad someone's daddy was as an excuse for their... View More

    — Posted by miseem

    I had an abusive stepfather and my mother was just like this mother, her life was always more important than the life of her children. I can count the number of times on ONE hand that I even spanked my kids on the bottom. I have 3 kids, two teens now and one tween and they are happy kids. I'm sick of the excuse of "he was abused" and mom "didn't have other choices". There are other choices and YES the cycle of abuse can be broken. I live 1600 miles away from my mother and the stepfather passed away when I was 15 and NOT living there. She's not even close enough to see my kids but she really doesn't seem eager anyway because they don't fit some need she has to fulfil in her life. Thank god for small miracles.

  • Deb1003 Mar 21, 9:25 a.m.

    It's convenient that he's now diagnosed w/ all these disorders, just so he has a defense. He tortured this child for days, he's admitted his guilt in her death. I hope the jury sees past this lame attempt to justify his sick actions.

  • 1-WOLFPACK Mar 21, 9:09 a.m.

    Are they seriously considering being irratible a defense in this,,,,,,give me a break and lets break out the gas chamber for him so he can do alittle squirming before he suffocates to death.......THERE IS NO DEFENSE TO WHAT HE DID, HE IS SANE AND HAD FULL KNOWLEDGE OF HIS ACTIONS.....it was not one hit out of anger that killed her, it was a long continuous10 day beating with cords , boards , bites and backhands.......NO EXCUSE, KILL HIM

  • oceancandle Mar 21, 9:05 a.m.

    I'm sorry, no matter what this doctor or any other doctor says, there is no excuse for harming a defenseless child. And the mother is just as guilty for leaving her child with a boyfriend instead of someone she knew she could trust.

  • anotherbabyboomer Mar 21, 8:57 a.m.

    He is just plain evil and now he is trying to get out of his actions.

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