Local News

Convicted killer Richardson shackled after shank found in his cell

Posted April 2, 2014 10:28 a.m. EDT
Updated April 3, 2014 1:47 p.m. EDT

— A Superior Court judge in Johnston County on Wednesday ordered that Johnathan Douglas Richardson, who is facing a possible death sentence in the murder of 4-year-old Teghan Skiba, wear leg shackles for the remainder of his trial after a detention officer found a handmade knife in his jail cell.

Capt. James Gerrell with the Johnston County Jail testified that he found the shank – a fingernail file attached to a toothbrush – in the 25-year-old's cell Wednesday morning after another inmate alerted a detention officer.

Judge Thomas Lock ordered that Richardson wear the shackles "to prevent the defendant's escape and ensure safety of court personnel." Richardson was found guilty March 25 of first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping, first-degree sexual offense of a child and felony child abuse in Teghan's July 19, 2010, death.

Jurors who will decide on Richardson's punishment were not present for Gerrell's testimony, and Lock ordered that the shackles not be visible to the jury. He also said Richardson should not be handcuffed.

Lock then asked Richardson if there was anything he wanted to say.

Richardson stood and replied, "I'd like to see it on camera" – possibly referring to security video of his cell.

Documents presented in court Tuesday detailed numerous behavioral problems with Richardson during his incarceration, including accusations that he incited inmates and threatened to stab a detention officer.

After hearing about the shank Wednesday, prosecutors asked Lock that Richardson be shackled.

"We'd ask the court impose some restrictions," Assistant District Attorney Greg Butler said. "As personnel, we're concerned for our safety."

The lengthy trial is nearing an end with closing arguments in the sentencing phase set for 9:30 a.m. Thursday.

The state rested Wednesday morning, after calling three witnesses in an effort to refute the defense's portrayal of Richardson as a mentally damaged man who was abused by his father.

It was Richardson's experiences of being improperly disciplined, the defense has said, that caused him to believe that the physical abuse he inflicted upon Teghan while her mother – his girlfriend at the time – was out of town was OK.

Her death, the defense has said, was the result of uncontrolled anger and was not intentional.

Sandy Penny, the longtime live-in girlfriend of Richardson's father, Douglas Richardson, testified that she never saw any signs of abuse and that although Douglas Richardson disciplined his son, he was never abusive.

"He did spank him, but I can tell you – I can count on one hand how many times he spanked him," Penny said. "I mean, we all get angry and raise our voice, but he is not an angry man. He's a very loving, fun man. He was a good dad, and they had a good father-son relationship."