'I loved her to death,' Teghan Skiba's alleged killer says in police video
Posted March 19, 2014 8:14 p.m. EDT
Updated March 19, 2014 9:26 p.m. EDT
Smithfield, N.C. — Defense attorneys for Jonathan Richardson attempted Wednesday to use a video of the 25-year-old to help show his mental state at the time of his arrest nearly four years ago in the murder case of Teghan Skiba.
But Superior Court Judge Thomas Lock refused to admit it into evidence for jurors, who spent the last 17 days of testimony hearing about the 4-year-old's injuries and how prosecutors say Richardson tormented, tortured and terrorized the girl for 10 days in a shed behind his grandparents' Smithfield home in July 2010.
Richardson faces charges of first-degree murder, felony child abuse, kidnapping and sexual offense with a child. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.
His attorneys say Teghan's death was not intentional but was partly the result of undiagnosed mental problems and physical abuse Richardson suffered as a child.
The July 16, 2010 video, played outside the presence of the jury, was taken in an interrogation room at the Johnston County Sheriff's Office after Richardson was taken into custody.
It was the same day he took the child, unconscious and near death, to a local emergency room.
In the video, a tearful Richardson is on his cellphone talking to Teghan's mother and his girlfriend of 6 months – Helen Reyes – about how much he adored the child.
Reyes had been out of town for Army Reserve training and left her daughter in Richardson's care.
"I wanted to have kids with you when you got home, because I loved being around her so much," Richardson cries. "I loved her to death, Helen. I do, and I would never intentionally hurt her."
He goes on to say he wanted to raise a family and be a good father to Teghan.
"She's never had a father, and the way she's warmed up to me, she loves me so much," he said.
Richardson continues, saying he popped Teghan on the leg for misbehaving and was surprised when detectives told him she had broken bones.
Doctors testified the child also had more than 60 bite marks covering her body, as well as abrasions and bruises too numerous to count and injuries consistent with sexual abuse. Her death on July 19, 2010, was the result of head trauma.
Richardson, in the video, also talks about needing help.
"You know my mind is messed up, don't you?" he asked Reyes. "You even said."
Sobbing, he tells Reyes that it was all an accident.
"Helen, I just want to tell you that I didn't mean to do it, and I didn't hurt her head," he said.
But Lock ruled the phone conversation was hearsay because the full conversation between Richardson and Reyes couldn't be heard.
Jurors ended up not seeing the video.
But they did see one on Tuesday – a 37-second video from the prosecution of the child in distress and facing a wall with her bruised arms stretched out by her side.
Repeating a half-dozen times, she cries: "When I have to pee, I promise I will tell someone."
"Speak up," Richardson yells.
Teghan repeats the phrase four more times before the video ends.
It was the last image of her conscious and alive, the state contends.