Forensic dentist: Teghan Skiba had 66 bite marks covering body
Posted March 10, 2014
Smithfield, N.C. — A Fayetteville dentist who examined bite marks on the body of 4-year-old Teghan Skiba in July 2010 testified Monday in the capital murder trial of her mother's boyfriend that the child had 66 bite marks covering her body that were consistent with the accused killer's teeth.
"I had never seen a child with more injuries. I had never seen a human being with more injuries than I did on Teghan's body," said Dr. Richard Barbaro, who has specialized in the field of forensic odontology for 30 years. "I immediately said a prayer that she would die."
Johnston County prosecutors say Jonathan Richardson, 25, tortured and sexually abused the child for 10 days – while her mother was out of the state – in a shed behind his grandparents' Smithfield home before taking the girl to a local hospital on July 16, 2010.
She died three days later at UNC Hospitals from blunt force head injuries.
Barbaro told jurors he was called to the Chapel Hill hospital to examine the bite marks – many of which were well-defined and at various stages of healing – that covered her from head to toe on both her front and back sides.
The marks ranged in severity, Barbaro added, describing a "Class 1" wound as a minor bite resulting in little, if any, pain. A "Class 5" wound, he said, would rip off skin and cause "excruciating" pain.
Teghan, he said, had marks ranging from Class 2 to Class 5.
"There were bite marks with a lot of detail," Barbaro said. "The dental evidence was very, very good on the crime scene, which was Teghan's body."
Barbaro said authorities later took Richardson – charged with first-degree murder, felony child abuse, kidnapping and sexual offense – to his office for dental impressions to compare Richardson's teeth to Teghan's wounds.
"I could not exclude him," Barbaro said. "Everywhere I checked matched him point-to-point."
Defense attorneys, trying to keep their client from a possible death sentence, raised the possibility that the bite marks could have been from someone else, pointing out that Barbaro only examined a mold of Richardson's teeth.
But Barbaro said a high degree of consistency in the marks – many of them matching six to eight of Richardson's upper and lower teeth – as well as the number of them, helped him reach his conclusion.
"We had 66 bite marks," he said. "I wasn't dealing with one little bite mark or partial bite mark."
The defense says Teghan's death was partly the result of Richardson being damaged by years of child abuse at his father's hands, uncontrolled anger and untreated mental problems.
Richardson never intended to kill Teghan, and he never sexually assaulted her, the defense says, but he didn't have the parenting skills or experience to care for her. Out of anger, his attorneys say, he caused the injury that killed her.
But prosecutors say Richardson not only tortured the girl but tormented and terrorized her in the 15-foot-by 13-foot shed where they lived with Teghan's mother, Helen Reyes.
Richardson then tried to "justify and explain away" the girl's injuries, telling authorities she fell off an air mattress and bumped her head. Other excuses, the state says he gave, included Teghan having eczema and being bitten by her young cousin.