Teghan Skiba's mom described as kind, loving
Posted March 11, 2014
Smithfield, N.C. — Defense attorneys trying to keep Jonathan Douglas Richardson off death row say the alleged physical abuse of Teghan Skiba started long before the 4-year-old's death nearly four years ago and that the child's mother knew about it and approved of it.
But jurors in the 25-year-old's capital murder trial heard Tuesday from Teghan's maternal aunt, who said the child's mother, Helen Reyes, was a kind mother who loved her daughter very much.
"She loved Teghan. She tried to better her life for Teghan," Maira Reyes said.
The extent to which Helen Reyes – who could testify this week – would punish her daughter, Maira Reyes said, would be time out or a pop with the hand on the child's bottom.
Richardson's treatment, on the other hand, was quite different. She recalled of one occasion in which the crying child had been dropped off by her grandparents.
"Jonathan grabbed her by the arms and shook her to stop crying," Maira Reyes said.
Johnston County prosecutors say Helen Reyes was in New Mexico for Army Reserve training in July 2010 and had left Teghan in Richardson's care.
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.
Defense attorneys, however, say 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 Tegan and wanted the three of them to be the perfect family, Richardson's attorneys say, but he had no idea how to care for a little girl.
Helen Reyes, they say, had other child care options but chose to leave Teghan with him.
By July 2010, however, Helen Reyes' relationship with Richardson had become a source of tension for her family, Maira Reyes said, and her sister and Teghan had moved out of her mother's house following a disagreement.
Richardson's second-cousin, Matthew Daughtry, testified Tuesday, describing Helen Reyes as being very quiet.
"Jonathan would yell at Helen. It would escalate to cussing," he said. "I never saw anything physical – but (there was) verbal abuse."
Richardson and Daughtry often spent time together hunting on Daughtry's property, he said, but he stopped hanging out with Richardson in spring 2010 when Richardson began drinking heavily and started using his property without permission.
Daughtry said he was also upset by Richardson’s rude behavior toward his grandparents, especially when they would tell him to do something.
"He would not listen. He would challenge them back. He would be very dominating over them," Daughtry said. "It came to the point where he told them to shut up. It was going to be Jonathan's way."