Mother of tortured child says she was 'wrong to leave her behind'
Posted March 14
Smithfield, N.C. — Jurors in the trial of the man accused of torturing and killing 4-year-old Teghan Skiba were shown pictures Friday of the smiling girl in happier times.
They also saw disturbing photos that depicted the child with a black eye, an injury that was allegedly caused by Jonathan Douglas Richardson, the former boyfriend of Teghan’s mother, Helen Reyes.
Richardson, 25, is charged with first-degree murder, felony child abuse, kidnapping and sexual offense. He could face the death penalty if convicted.
Prosecutors say Reyes went to New Mexico for Army Reserve training in July 2010 and left Teghan in the care of Richardson. They contend Richardson physically and sexually abused the child for 10 days inside a small shed behind his grandparents' home before taking her to a local hospital for a fatal head injury and more than five dozen bite marks on her body.
Reyes took the stand Thursday for the first time during the nearly three-week trial, crying often as she told jurors about her tumultuous relationship with Richardson, how much she loved her daughter and how upset she was with Richardson for disciplining her. She described coming home once to find Teghan covered in welts after Richardson told her that he whipped her with an electrical cord.
Reyes, who is facing a charge of felony child negligent abuse, continued her tearful testimony Friday. She said she trusted Richardson to care for the girl while she was at Army training.
"I knew I was wrong for leaving her behind," she said. "I never thought I'd come home or get a phone call that something was severely wrong with my baby. I live with this every day of my life. I miss here every single day of my life."
Prosecutors showed another photo of Teghan sitting in the seat of a car, eyes half closed, with a cigarette dangling from her lips. In front of her is a pack of Marlboros and a can of Budweiser.
Reyes said Richardson posed the shot while the three were on a trip to Carolina Beach. The picture prompted two jurors to react by covering their mouths with their hands.
“I told him not to do that to her,” Reyes said.
Defense attorneys have said that Richardson – damaged by years of abuse, uncontrolled anger and untreated mental problems – never sexually abused Teghan and that her death was an "unbelievable tragedy" that Richardson never meant to happen.
He loved Reyes and Teghan and wanted the three of them to be the perfect family, Richardson's attorneys said, but he had no idea how to care for a little girl.
Testimony is expected to continue Monday.