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Investigator weeps testifying about tortured child's living conditions

Posted February 26, 2014
Updated February 27, 2014

— A former crime scene investigator wept Wednesday as she showed a Johnston County jury photos of the tiny, "cluttered and dirty" shed where prosecutors say a man tortured his girlfriend's young daughter for 10 days before she slipped into a coma and died in 2010.

The breakdown prompted the judge presiding over Jonathan Douglas Richardson's capital murder trial to excuse jurors from the courtroom so the investigator, Charlotte Fournier, could regain her composure.

The state says Richardson, 25, locked 4-year-old Teghan Skiba in the shed behind his grandparents' Smithfield home and physically and sexually abused her while her mother, Helen Reyes, attended Army Reserve training in New Mexico.

Teghan died July 19, 2010, three days after Richardson took her to a local emergency room, claiming she hit her head while jumping on a bed. An autopsy found the child died from blunt force head injuries.

All day Wednesday, Fournier testified to finding the 15x13 shed on the "neatly manicured" property of Richardson's grandparents filled with alcohol containers, partially eaten food, scattered clothing, urine and feces.

"My first impression was that somebody was living in there," she said. "Just the odor – somebody had been defecating in there. There was stuff thrown on top of stuff, stuff all over the floor. It was very cluttered."

Investigators took a rifle, a shotgun and a knife from the shed when they searched it on July 16, 2010, the same day Richardson took Teghan to the emergency room.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys both say Richardson, who had been dating Reyes for about six months, and Teghan all lived in the shed.

On the day he dropped Reyes off at the airport for her military training, the state says he stopped at a home improvement store and purchased a hasp that he used to secure the shed so that no one could get in.

Defense attorneys acknowledge that Richardson physically abused Teghan but say he never sexually abused her and did not intend to kill her.

Her death, they say, was partially the result of Richardson's undiagnosed mental problems, his own experiences of being abused as a child and approval from Reyes that physical abuse was OK.

The defense has also said that Reyes had other childcare options but chose to leave her daughter with Richardson. He didn't have the parenting skills or experience to care for the child.


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  • datruf Feb 28, 2014

    Jonathon Richardson is charged with this crime. No one is on trial at this juncture other than Jonathon. Obviously, the court appointed defense has little to nothing to work with. He is being given a fair trial that I estimate deliberations to take about 10 minutes.

    I am a member of this family. WE are good people. WE have worked our entire lives. As with MANY families there is that one member that brings the rest to their knees. This has been shameful - inexcusable. My heart aches for Jonathon's grandparents. They adored him as a young child & tried to open their home to him when NO ONE else would have him.

    They are an older couple with health issues that have been exascerbated by the actions that JONATHON took on their property. The "shed" as everyone refers the small, carpeted, Air Conditioned building that was lovingly built by the grandfather for the grandmother to use as a workout building was TAKEN OVER by Jonathon and by the looks of the pictures - destroyed.

  • Crystal Wallace Feb 28, 2014
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    View quoted thread

    Teghan was not their grand daughter. They are Richardson's grandparents, and Richardson was not her father. However, some concern should be raised as to why someone would allow a little girl to live in a shed behind the house, regardless of the relationship.

  • Judy Fergerson Feb 28, 2014
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    Mothers all over the planet continue to choose the wrong man and yet allow these men to come into her home around her children and abuse them. Are young ladies these days that desperate for love or is it that they just don’t care who they associate with? So sad those parents these days also are not mentoring their children (male and female) how to show love don’t begin with a beating but kindness and gentleness. You young ladies need to wake up and realize a fist in one’s face is not love – but abuse and do this before you make the mistake of bringing a little one into becoming part of the abuse.

  • Phillip Holmes Feb 28, 2014
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    Something is very strange that the grandparents never saw anything in the 10 days of torture and at the veryleast never went out back to see their grandaughter in all that time. I saw an article that other than the shed, the yard was very well manicured......someone had to be outside working the yard.....and also why havent they been called to support and or testify on behalf of their grandaughter??? Something just strikes me as strange here.........that little girl's life could have possibly been saved if they had jus check on here out there each day........most grandkids would have been running and playing all over the back yard and wanting to see grandma.............what is up with this??

  • greenbloggirl Feb 28, 2014

    What charges is the mother facing?

  • pdq914 Feb 27, 2014

    are they not broadcasting this trial anymore. if so where is the link

  • UNCW23 Feb 27, 2014

    This is a barn that is less than 150 feet from the house

  • JAT Feb 27, 2014

    still say the man's grandparents played a role. they let the 3 of them live in the shed - why would any grandmother let a 4 year old to be kept in a shed?

  • acase27330 Feb 27, 2014

    For those who defend the mother leaving the child with this guy you might want to read previous articles on this case ("The child abuse, they say, was happening long before Reyes ever left Smithfield. She also faces a charge of negligent child abuse in the case.
    "Helen taught Jonathan that abusing her daughter was appropriate by her actions or by her approval when it happened," defense attorney Jonathan Broun said in opening statements Monday"). Also, she did have other options for her daughter care while she was gone but chose to leave her with the boyfriend. Why would one not chose family for care over a boyfriend of 6 months?

  • msconnie1399 Feb 27, 2014

    where is this little girls Mother and family. There has been no mention of any family member at the trial in her support. That is so sad. Her Mother's family should have been watcching this little girl while their daughter was training.