Local News

Investigators: Man tortured child left in his care

Posted July 17, 2010
Updated July 20, 2010

— A 4-year-old girl remained in critical condition Sunday, two days after she was hospitalized for injuries suffered in what Johnston County authorities described as torture.

The girl's mother is at her side at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill, said Tammy Amaon, a spokeswoman for the Johnston County Sheriff's Office.

The girl's mother had left her with Jonathan Douglas Richardson, 21, of Old Sanders Road in Smithfield, while she underwent military training.

Johnston County Sheriff Steve Bizzell says that Richardson abused the girl over multiple days. She was sexually assaulted, suffered severe head trauma and had bite marks, cuts and bruises on her body.

"(This is) one of the worst cases of torture of a child that we have ever investigated – cuts, lacerations, signs of sexual assault, bite marks, head trauma," Bizzell said. "I have detectives out here, professional law enforcement officers, who are saddened by this. It is just unreal. We can not imagine someone who would do this to such a young child."

Authorities said that Richardson took the girl to Johnston Memorial Hospital in Smithfield around noon Friday, claiming she had fallen off a bed in the barn apartment where he lived. Hospital workers reported the case.

Bizzell said the barn was behind the house where Richardson's grandparents live. It had no running water or bathroom. Richardson and the girl slept on an air mattress, the sheriff said.

Dr. Michael Teague, a forensic psychologist and criminal profiler, said in abuse situations like this, the suspect is trying to take unresolved anger out on the victim.

“They take it out on the weakest person. It’s a very cowardly act to be abusing somebody that small,” Teague said. 

Richardson was charged with felony child abuse and placed in the Johnston County jail under a $1 million bond.

In 2008, Richardson was found guilty of assault on a female, according to court records. He was ordered to enter an abuser treatment program and attend a domestic violence program in Johnston County.


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  • vger13 Jul 22, 2010

    we go again..bad childhood,mean father,missing mother,bipolar,i am so sick of it every time a crime is commented anymore there is always a reason other than just plain MEAN AND EVIL what he did there is no excuses for.i guess the public,media,and justice system have a hard time dealing with people..sorry i meant a sorry excuse for a life form like him.i am sure others feel the same as me believe me when he gets in jail..he wont last long

  • wasclywabit2 Jul 19, 2010

    You know if Bizzell says its the worst they have seen then it has got to be just terrible. Bizzell has been around forever!

  • ginasutton81 Jul 19, 2010

    Is there any article that describes the mother's situation? I want to read that before bringing judgement on her. No, you just can't reschedule training in the military. I was a single mother a few years back and had to deploy overseas. Thank God I had a supportive family who helped me through it all. Don't judge the mother until you know the whole story. She might not had known what this guy is capable of before leaving. I want more info. before criticizing her. It's not our place to judge anyways.

  • cocker_mom Jul 19, 2010

    crustyhalo - I am not blaming our military - but - if she felt she had no options (couldn't reschedule her training week, etc) and no services were provided or there wasn't any help, etc - it's a contributing factor in her bad decision. Now - if she has family or friends that she COULD have asked for help, or the military will allow a reschedule for training, or has resources to affordable weeklong child care - etc- then there are no real contributing factors here other than her bad decisions (understatement)

    And to say the anger this guy has is a result of having to babysit for a week - are you SERIOUS????? His anger and rage and hate goes far deeper than that.

    His parents are NOT the grandparents - and probably had nothing to do with her / the child - but really - they had to know he was keeping a child in those conditions. And that I find unconscionable.

  • kotcowgirl Jul 19, 2010

    I feel bad for this baby she may not make it. An she had 2 adults living in a home with ac water clean living enviroment. She was out there living in that barn with the devil himself. Why did they not go out there and to the barn. If i got folks living out in my barns dang it i am going to make sure they r ok. They had to know there is no way they did not know. Being a pillar of the community that should have had better common sense than to check on things. If they were scared of him they should have called the sheriff to have him removed maybe this child would not have been in the shape she is in. They need to be charged also something like this should not happen in there back yard with out common knowledge of there surrondings. I pray this child does not pass. But her mom does not need her when she gets out and is recoving i hope she finds a home that she can know what a loving family is.

  • crustyhalo Jul 19, 2010

    Please get this child away from her (mother) I use that term lightly. No decent woman would leave her 4 year old alone for weeks with anyone that does not have a decent home for the child to live in...I take better care of my animals,and shame on the (grandparents) I say that lightly too, for not knowing that child was on their property. God dont like ugly folks...I hope they all rot in HELL for this one..Prayers for the little one.And by the way..please do not blame our Military for this....

  • 4luvofthem Jul 19, 2010

    I agree with you, I still would like to know how the Grandparents did not know something was happening to that child.

  • Mugu Jul 19, 2010

    I am willing to bet that the unresolved anger was based on the fact that the child was forced on the poor guy.

    What he should have done was drop the unwanted child off at a hospital or police station under the Safe Haven law.

  • cocker_mom Jul 19, 2010

    So - let me ask this - the mom obviously isn't all about making good decisions - so - if the US military is recruiting and training women - is there any support for child care while away on training? Before I totally condemn her - I'd like to know if there is help. I would have to think that if you are a mother of a small child and joining the reserves - it's not because you have the best support from the child's father.

    It may have been that she felt she had no choice. Are there concessions made if a soldier can't get child care? Things like this are a reality of women in the military.

    This poor innocent child has been a terrible victim of her mother's bad choices. And this last one could cost her her life.

    And one last thought - yes WRAL - please follow this through. This person needs to be off the streets for the rest of his life. I hope more charges are pending and justice is swift and severe.

  • wendyoldham Jul 19, 2010

    Be careful how you judge the family of the suspect. Sometimes it doesn't matter how a child has been raised, they still make stupid choices that can be devastating to lots of people. To upstanding members of the community to have a person like this in their family is extremely hard on them too. Learn the whole story before you start judging the rest of his family.