Richardson found guilty on all counts in 4-year-old Teghan Skiba's murder
Posted March 25, 2014
Smithfield, N.C. — With an hour of deliberations, a Johnston County jury on Tuesday found Jonathan Douglas Richardson guilty of sexually and physically abusing and then killing his former girlfriend's 4-year-old daughter, Teghan Skiba, nearly four years ago.
Richardson, 25, was convicted on charges of first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping, first-degree sexual offense of a child and felony child abuse inflicting serious injury in the girl's July 19, 2010, death
The jury of seven women and five men must now decide whether Richardson should receive the death penalty. The sentencing phase of the trial, which will begin Wednesday afternoon, is expected to go into next week.
Richardson shook his head as each verdict was read.
His mother and grandmother, who sat in the gallery behind him, sobbed as the court clerk read the jury's decision. They declined to comment afterward, as did Teghan's paternal grandparents who were also in court for Tuesday's verdict.
Prosecutors say Richardson repeatedly satisfied his "sadistic desires" by tormenting, torturing and terrorizing the girl for 10 days in a shed that doubled as his torture chamber behind his grandparents’ Smithfield home while Teghan's mother was in New Mexico for Army Reserve training.
Richardson took Teghan – unconscious and barely alive with bruises, broken bones, other injuries and more than 60 bite marks covering her body – to a Smithfield hospital on July 16, 2010. She died three days later at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill from blunt force trauma to the head.
Jurors spent four weeks listening to testimony that, at times, brought some of them to tears, upset court employees and caused experienced medical and law enforcement workers, including a sheriff's deputy for 18 years, to break down on the stand.
Defense attorneys trying to keep Richardson off death row contended he was not guilty of first-degree murder because he never intended to kill Teghan.
Richardson loved Teghan and her mother – whom he had known for about six months – and wanted to start a family with them, his defense said.
Despite evidence that the child had injuries consistent with signs of sexual abuse, they argued that he never sexually abused her.
Her death was an accident, the defense said, that was the result of a combination of Richardson's inexperience with children, his own experiences of being abused as a child, undiagnosed mental disorders and his inability to control his anger.
During an impassioned closing argument Monday afternoon, Assistant District Attorney Paul Jackson said nothing minimized Richardson's culpability for the crimes.
"The only way you can find this defendant not guilty is through fantastic leaps of the imagination," he said. "The only way you can find him not guilty is if you check your common sense at the door."