Deputy: Tortured child's injuries 'most horrifying thing I've ever seen'
Posted March 5
Smithfield, N.C. — The injuries to 4-year-old Teghan Skiba were so severe that emotions overtook the seasoned Johnston County sheriff's deputy responding July 16, 2010, to UNC Hospitals, where doctors and nurses were doing everything possible to save the dying child's life.
"It immediately brought tears to my eyes. It's the most horrifying thing I've ever seen done to a human being – especially a child," Deputy Matt DeSilva – now with the Wake County Sheriff's Office – told jurors Wednesday morning on the eighth day of testimony in Jonathan Douglas Richardson's capital murder trial.
"I've never seen anything like that in the years that I've been doing this as a law enforcement officer," he added. "And I've seen a lot – but not like that."
DeSilva broke down on the witness stand – the second law enforcement officer to do so – prompting Superior Court Judge Thomas Lock to call for a 25-minute break to allow the deputy to regain his composure.
Richardson, meanwhile, sat during the break, smiling often.
Doctors who treated the child have testified that Teghan had bleeding in her skull from blunt force head injuries and that she also had injuries consistent with sexual abuse as well as bite marks, whip marks, lesions, scabs and scars covering nearly her entire body.
Richardson, who told doctors that she fell, initially took her to a local hospital in Johnston County. But medical staff there had the child transferred to UNC Hospital's North Carolina Children's Hospital in Chapel Hill.
Teghan died three days later.
When DeSilva returned to finish his testimony, he described Richardson's demeanor after his arrest as "mocking."
"'What are y'all gonna do? Tie me down and cut me up?'" DeSilva recalled Richardson saying.
"I just looked at him," DeSilva said, adding that Richardson had a "slight little grin on his face."
Johnston County prosecutors say 25-year-old Richardson – the boyfriend of Teghan's mother – tormented, tortured and terrorized the little girl for 10 days in a shed behind the Smithfield home of his grandparents while his girlfriend was away attending training for the Army Reserves.
Defense attorneys trying to keep Richardson – who faces charges of first-degree murder, felony child abuse, kidnapping and sexual offense with a child – from death row contend otherwise.
They say he never sexually abused Teghan and didn't mean to kill her, but he lacked experience and parenting skills. They blame her death on his undiagnosed mental problems, his own experiences of being abused as a child and approval from Teghan's mother that physically abusing the child was OK.