Local News

Mother of tortured child says she was 'wrong to leave her behind'

Posted March 14, 2014

— 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.


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  • Aerin Gunn Mar 18, 2014
    user avatar

    She knowingly threw that poor child into a living hell. She's guilty as sin and deserves zero sympathy. Throw the book at her, the selfish slattern. As far as him... Bite marks match? Forget all this due process, drag him out behind the barn and put him down. Otherwise he'll sit in prison, well fed and cared for by our tax dollars, receiving better care than Teghan probably ever had in her painfully short life. If we had a justice system instead of a legal system, that is how this would go.

  • brandy213122 Mar 17, 2014

    She also said that when the little girl received a black eye a month before her murder, that she "considered" to break up with him then but decided to "stay". Yet, she made a "mistake". She put a man over her daughter. Sugar coat it however people want but she was very selfish and concerned about having a "boyfriend" than actually being a mom and making sure she protected her daughter.

  • MindBomb Mar 14, 2014

    IfcDirector....is this really the appropriate time or place to play the abortion card? Whatever your, or anyone else's opinion is regarding the issue, this story has nothing to do with it.

  • monami Mar 14, 2014

    "I live with this every day of my life. I miss here every single day of my life."

    Boohoo. This isn't about how you feel, "mom." It's about what you let your boyfriend do to your daughter. This is about Teghan.

  • Justic4All Mar 14, 2014

    Hindsight does not help Teghan.

  • waccamawron Mar 14, 2014

    Excuse me, please.

    The grandparents were living directly in front of the shed, and they did nothing. Nothing!
    I doubt the grandparents see the role they played in the girl's murder by not intervening.

    There are many to blame here . . . many people let this poor little girl down.

  • Mark Aman Mar 14, 2014
    user avatar

    Life is cheap for children both born and unborn when a woman can legally kill a child protected by law before it is born. Is that any less horrid or offensive? It's a very Hegelian and scary world we are living in where convenience trumps conscience and even life itself. These things though extraordinarily tragic are not shocking but rather expected where life is held in such little regard.

  • angieb Mar 14, 2014

    " She described coming home once to find Teghan covered in welts after Richardson told her that he whipped her with an electrical cord."

    If my child's father whipped my child with an electrical cord, he would not live to tell it! She should rot in jail. I hope that once Richardson is convicted, he is placed in the same prison as Teghan's father!

  • smartmomma Mar 14, 2014

    I have tried not to follow this case, because it reminds me of so many other times these "mothers" let their boyfriends abuse their children and did nothing. It is disgusting, and in my opinion, it is just as bad as killing the child yourself. A mother is supposed to love and protect their children; not sacrifice them to these so-called men. Why does this keep happening? Why isn't it stopped when others see signs of it? We need to be more aware and quicker to report suspected abuse before another child has to be tortured or killed. Otherwise, you will see this story again. In fact, it probably mirrors several stories in other towns at this very moment. ie... Ursula Sunshine Assaid, Dominick Calhoun, Adonta McCoy...I could go on and on and on. Add little Teghan to the list. I have cried about this girl as I have cried for others. Crimes against children are the worst, because they are defenseless and the only weapon they have at their disposal is a parent to protect them.RIP

  • Karie West Mar 14, 2014
    user avatar

    Crocodile tears. She's just sorry that she got caught.