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ER doctor says tortured girl 'had been suffering a long time'

Posted March 7
Updated March 10

— 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.”

4 Comments

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  • sunneyone2 Mar 19, 2:25 p.m.

    Soapbox, thank you. Great explanation of the difference between whoopings and abuse.
    This poor little girl. The sad thing is, there's no real way to get true justice for this child. My only prayer is that her soul is being held and comforted in her afterlife.

  • DontVote4LiarsCheatsOrThieves Mar 10, 6:32 p.m.

    http://www.wral.com/news/video/13422985/

  • soapbox Mar 7, 7:38 p.m.

    Why do people always claim that they do bad things to children, because they were abused? That... View More

    — Posted by dwr1964

    Why? The people making those claims are the defense lawyers and they're just doing their job of casting their client in the best possible light when it comes to the sentencing phase. They've got an impossible task in this case. The jury and the judge will not show any mercy to Richardson, nor should they. There is no excuse for what he did to this little girl.

    That said, what you are talking about is corporal punishment, not abuse. Whatever your attitude toward physical punishment, I think it's pretty clear that if an adult leaves bruises on a child, that adult has a problem with anger and self control. "Whoopings" don't leave bruises. Beatings do. And they are usually accompanied by verbal and psychological abuse.

    Then you've got a problem since abused kids frequently grow up to be abusers. Better to try to understand and intervene BEFORE they end up in court with a defense atty who will say "It's not his fault, he was abused as a child..."

  • dwr1964 Mar 7, 6:14 p.m.

    Why do people always claim that they do bad things to children, because they were abused? That is not an excuse. My dad used to whoop my tail end at least every other week. I am not saying that I didn't deserve it, because I was a semi-bad kid. And when I got whooped, it was with pants down, taking the belt directly on my bare skin. Now I have my daughter and 2 grandchildren. I have never whooped either of them. I don't need to blame anything on my parents. I never abused my daughter. People who try to use that as an excuse, are blowing smoke up your tail.