Local News

Defense psychologist: Child's convicted killer 'quite disturbed'

Posted March 31, 2014

— Jonathan Richardson's upbringing by his abusive father and the relationship he had with his mother are keys to trying to understand why he killed his former girlfriend's daughter, a forensic psychologist testified Monday – the third day of a hearing to determine if the 25-year-old should face the death penalty for the crime.

After an hour of deliberations last week, a jury of seven women and five men found Richardson guilty of several charges, including first-degree murder and first-degree sexual offense of a child, in 4-year-old Teghan Skiba's July 19, 2010, death.

Johnston County prosecutors say Richardson tormented, tortured and terrorized the girl for 10 days, but defense attorneys contend that Teghan's death was unintentional and was the result of uncontrolled anger, undiagnosed mental problems and years of emotional and physical abuse that Richardson himself suffered.

"He's quite a disturbed individual," forensic psychologist Matthew Mendel said. "There's a lot of mystery involved with Jonathan Richardson."

Mendel met with Richardson on four occasions during which he found out that he was raised by a single father who was shot in the head when Richardson was 1 year old.

The shooting left Douglas Richardson mentally scarred an incapable of providing the care his son needed, defense attorneys have said.

Mendel said the father and son were close – describing their relationship as having a "buddy-buddy dynamic" – but that there was "considerable physical abuse." The younger Richardson, he said, described his father as being "utterly out of control" and "filled with rage" when spanking him.

"The discipline of Jonathan was left up to the father," Mendel said. "Doug basically took care of the discipline."

Mendel described Jonathan Richardson's relationship with his mother as lacking compassion and emotion – "a cold relationship."

Finding out about the family history, however, was problematic because the family was "very closed, very secretive."

"Frankly, I had difficulty finding out information. (There was) a lot of secrecy, a lot of cloudiness about the case," he said. "I believe the family disturbance is very central and critical to understanding Jonathan Richardson."

As a young child, Richardson was considered academically gifted in school and showed "great promise and great potential," Mendel said. By fifth grade, however, his academic performance drastically declined.

"I think it's enormously significant," Mendel said. "I don't know the reason for it. If I see someone with that dramatic a drop, I'm going to think there's some reason for it."

In high school, Richardson drank large amounts of alcohol, Mendel added, with one friend reporting that he was known to drink a half gallon of whiskey in one sitting.

"You need to have a considerable tolerance of alcohol," Mendel said, saying Richardson was likely self-medicating himself for undiagnosed depression.

As for his ultimate diagnosis, Mendel said he still hasn't been able to pinpoint exactly what caused Richardson's troubles.

"There are signs all over the place. There are certain things that are clearly wrong," he said. "What feels so different and unique in this case so far passed the conclusion that I have reached."


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  • Lightfoot3 Apr 2, 2014

    "There is testimony transcripts everywhere but continue to say otherwise" - brandy213122

    If they are "everywhere", surely you can provide a link or something. There is absolutely no proof or evidence that grandparents knew what was going on. The mother was responsible for her child, not the grandma of the dude she was dating. And the dude is the one guilty of the abuse he did.

  • brandy213122 Apr 2, 2014

    View quoted thread

    There is testimony transcripts everywhere but continue to say otherwise.

  • Lightfoot3 Apr 1, 2014

    "YES SHE DID" - misschris234

    While it still doesn't prove anything, can you provide documentation? I heard she heard crying, but not "screaming". But as I've said, the kids in my neighborhood scream bloody murder.

    "It wasn't just a "black eye", the entire SIDE OF HER FACE was black and blue." - misschris234

    Yeah, yeah, my daughter looked like she'd been in the boxing ring.

    "MY opinion based on her own testimony is that she DID know something was going on" - misschris234

    Nope, you're speculating she knew, but she did NOT testify to that fact.

  • Steve Moore Apr 1, 2014
    user avatar

    "Quite disturbed"....an uncanny grasp of the obvious.

  • shd-be-doing-something-else Apr 1, 2014

    View quoted thread

    I'll disagree. A much more fitting punishment would be to require him to sit in a cell for the rest of his life, with a life size cardboard cutout of Teghan's broken, bruised and battered body just outside of his cell for him to have to look at every single day. And that he be confined in the general population where all of his fellow fine-upstanding citizens can see it as well. Maybe, just maybe, justice would then really be served.

  • Janene DiPierro Apr 1, 2014
    user avatar

    Wow... its took a forensic psychologist to tell the whole world that this sicko is disturbed. Not like to 60 bite marks and torture of a 4 year old for 10 days wasn't proof enough!!!

  • brandy213122 Apr 1, 2014

    View quoted thread

    Oh wow, you really are in denial. I have 3 boys who play rough and not one so far has had a black eye, but your children have had multiples? And YES it is illegal for a child to live in a house with NO RUNNING WATER!!! She also made it quite clear that after she saw the black eye, she didn't call. I'm glad you are ok with defending adults who sat there and did nothing while a child was tortured. Are you aware of how much strength it takes to BITE flesh to the point where it was coming off and you can still say that the grandparents KNEW nothing. I guess you also seem to forget that while living with the grandparents, he killed a neighbor's dog in its own yard. I doubt the grandparents knew that either. It concerns me that you can still be friends with people like this and defend them.

  • Chris Redshaw Apr 1, 2014
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    and YAY, we as taxpayers get to pay for that "expert" testimony to the tune of $25K. I would have told them he was disturbed for free. I don't think anyone in that courtroom thought otherwise.

  • Debbie Norris Apr 1, 2014
    user avatar

    View quoted thread


  • Debbie Norris Apr 1, 2014
    user avatar

    He's not been "DISTURBED" enough...The justice system is always looking for excuses. Lots of people were "abused" by today's definition of "abuse - not everyone tortured and killed a child. Richardson knew right from wrong. There is NO excuse!!