ER doctor says tortured girl 'had been suffering a long time'
Posted March 7, 2014
Updated March 10, 2014
Smithfield, N.C. — A caseworker who testified Friday at the trial of Jonathan Douglas Richardson, who is accused of torturing and killing 4-year-old Teghan Skiba, said an abuse complaint from Richardson’s childhood was an isolated incident.
Prosecutors called James Condon, a Department of Social Services caseworker who handled an abuse complaint when Richardson was 6 years old, to the stand to shed light on what defense attorneys have characterized as an abusive upbringing that caused Richardson’s violent behavior.
Johnston County prosecutors say Richardson – the boyfriend of Teghan's mother – tormented, tortured and terrorized the little girl for 10 days in July 2010 in a shed behind the Smithfield home of his grandparents while her mother was away attending training for the Army Reserves.
Richardson, 25, is charged with first-degree murder, felony child abuse, kidnapping and sexual offense with a child and could face the death penalty if convicted.
Condon said when Richardson was 6, he had bruises on his buttocks and leg caused by his father whipping him with a belt after he misbehaved at school.
“It’s not against the law to spank your child in North Carolina,” Condon said. “There are issues when there are marks left.”
During cross examination, Condon testified that Richardson’s father was hostile during the visit, and that Richardson constantly looked over at his father while being interviewed.
Defense attorney Jonathan Broun read from the 1995 case report that described Richardson’s father as “intimidating” and said he had problems controlling his anger.
Condon said DSS ruled the whipping an isolated incident of improper punishment and closed the case.
“We always err on the worst case scenario,” Condon said. “We had lots of family that obviously wanted to protect Jonathan, and we had the school system looking out for him, where we get a lot of our reports.”
Prosecutors also called emergency room doctor Jeff Williams to the stand, where he testified that Teghan’s injuries were the worst thing he’d ever seen happen to a child. His testimony echoed that of other health care workers who have previously testified about the girl’s condition.
Williams, who was working at UNC Hospitals’ ER when Teghan arrived in a helicopter, struggled to contain his emotions as he recounted her injuries.
“When they unwrapped the sheet, it became very clear that this person had been suffering for a long time,” Williams said.
Williams knew Teghan had a brain injury, but he was not prepared for the sight of wounds covering the 4-year-old’s body.
“All of a sudden, it sort of hit me,” he said. “I got sort of upset because I realized the reason her blood count is so low is not from the bleeding in the brain, but from all these wounds.”
Williams said Teghan’s wounds were at various stages of infection, meaning they were inflicted at different times.
“All the wounds that were on her had not happened immediately,” he said. “She was so injured, and it was clear to us this had not been a singular pediatric head injury.”
He said the extent of Teghan’s injuries gave him a visceral reaction.
“I was immediately nauseated, but obviously, you have to do your job,” he said. “You don’t stop – you do what you have to do to save a life.”