Local News

Prosecutor: Slain 4-year-old endured 10 days of torture

Posted February 24, 2014
Updated February 26, 2014

— Johnston County prosecutors say a man on trial and facing a possible death sentence tormented, tortured and terrorized his girlfriend's 4-year-old daughter for 10 days before the child slipped into a coma and died while her mother was out of town three years ago.

Jonathan Douglas Richardson is accused of first-degree murder, felony child abuse, kidnapping and sexual offense with a child in the July 19, 2010, death of Teghan Skiba, who authorities say was confined to and locked in a shed she lived in with the 25-year-old and her mother, Helen Reyes.

"He inflicted grievous pain and suffering upon this 4-year-old child through deliberate, repeated acts of sadistic abuse – not only physical but sexual, not only for the purpose of discipline but for sadistic pleasure," Johnston County Assistant District Attorney Paul Jackson told jurors during opening statements Monday.

Jackson described the child's body as a crime scene with evidence of head trauma, sexual assault and more than 60 bite marks, as well as cuts, bruises and whip marks that were too numerous for emergency workers to document and impossible to describe with words.

"It was beyond anything they had ever seen before," he said.

Richardson, Jackson said, lied about what happened and tried to explain away the injuries, including telling authorities that the child fell off the air mattress she shared with Richardson and Reyes in the shed behind the home of Richardson's grandparents.

Defense attorney Jonathan Broun acknowledged the abuse but said his client never intended to kill Teghan, but didn't have the parenting skills or experience to care for the child while Reyes, attended military training in New Mexico.

"Jonathan loved Teghan, but he was as unequipped to care for a 4-year-old as a 21-year-old man could be," Broun said. "He had no idea how to take care of a little girl, and his actions showed it."

Her death partly was a result of Richardson's own experiences of being abused as a child as well as undiagnosed mental problems.

A single child, Richardson was raised by an angry father who showed his son little or no attention unless he was abusing him.

"When Jonathan was beaten, at least he knew his father cared. His father was paying attention," Broun said. "Sadly, Jonathan was taught that physical abuse is what a parent did. It's how a parent showed he cared, how he showed that he loved."

According to search warrants, Richardson told Johnston County investigators that he had bipolar disorder and that "little things set him off." The documents allege that he whipped Teghan with a cord after she went to the bathroom in the bed."

Broun didn't say what Richardson might have told authorities but did say his client's actions "were cause by anger and mental problems."

"Jonathan's anger got the best of him, and he grabbed her and shook her," Broun said.

Reyes also faces a charge of negligent child abuse in the case.

Investigators said in the warrants that they determined the physical abuse, which included forcing her to consume alcohol, started before she left town.


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  • felicial Feb 25, 2014

    Yesterday I was able to watch the opening statements. Is the rest of the trial not available on live feed? I can't find it anywhere.

  • Alexia Proper Feb 25, 2014
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    Yeah, I can't see any intelligent juror accepting this argument. The man is evil, that we can see. We have prisons full of people who are evil. They might not be evil all the time, but we cannot trust those people to be in public, as they are a threat to public safety. I'd say he fits in along with all the others who would kill another person. One does not even need to be religious to hold this value true.

    Others would also agree that an act of violence like this against a child is even worse. The child cannot even defend themselves.

    Yeah, I think if public hangings were still around, he'd be at the town square right after the defense rests.

  • Kelly Birdsall Feb 25, 2014
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    Why do people commits these horrible crime & then try to blame them away with "i was abused, i am bipolar, i was only 21" well, sir there are plenty of abused, bipolar, & 21 year old people out there who would NEVER do this to a child or anyone. You are a coward who was on a power trip & i sure hope no one buys your pathetic story. MAN UP & ACCEPT RESPONSIBILITY FOR ONCE IN YOUR LIFE!

  • tigresspen Feb 25, 2014

    I hope this sewage slime gets what he deserves, which is nada of living and breathing in my book. His I knew nothing about child rearing excuse is bull...

  • Chase Truman Feb 25, 2014
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    I sincerely hope this defense attorney, John Broun, isn't using the argument of this guy "not having the parenting skills or experience" to care for a 4-year old in this case. Lots of people don't have experience taking care of children, but they don't torture and abuse them because of that! What a moronic argument... it just infuriates me.

  • Leslie Nance Feb 25, 2014
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    I wonder if child protective services had been alerted prior to this event. I've seen it time and again that they will come out and not think the situation is a problem and then sometime later the child is dead. Surely a neighbor saw this child living in a wood shed! People pay attention to your surroundings and if something seems wrong, call it in!

  • Chase Truman Feb 25, 2014
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    That's part of the definition of a sociopath: there is no remorse felt for what they have done.

    This man clearly has serious mental problems and needs to be put in a mental hospital or mental ward of a prison where he can get the right medication and help, but he should never be allowed back in society regardless of the help he receives.

  • Heather Brittingham Feb 25, 2014
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    That poor baby. I can't imagine the fear and pain she felt before he finally caused her death. It makes my heart hurt to even think about it.

  • Tim Pearce Feb 25, 2014
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    Ah haaaa,,,,, Where in the world is this society headed ????? When are our leaders going to do something about the state of mind of the people ? They only care about lining their pockets. The candidate selection system needs to be revamped so that the vamps can't get in. We need a different breed of thinker in out political offices. Or we will perish.

  • Lovey Howell Feb 25, 2014
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    No live feed, the graphic nature of this heinous act committed against a 4 year old will cause too many of us to carry pitchforks to the courthouse.