Local News

Investigators: Man tortured child left in his care

Posted July 17, 2010 2:16 p.m. EDT
Updated July 20, 2010 8:28 a.m. EDT

— A 4-year-old girl remained in critical condition Sunday, two days after she was hospitalized for injuries suffered in what Johnston County authorities described as torture.

The girl's mother is at her side at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill, said Tammy Amaon, a spokeswoman for the Johnston County Sheriff's Office.

The girl's mother had left her with Jonathan Douglas Richardson, 21, of Old Sanders Road in Smithfield, while she underwent military training.

Johnston County Sheriff Steve Bizzell says that Richardson abused the girl over multiple days. She was sexually assaulted, suffered severe head trauma and had bite marks, cuts and bruises on her body.

"(This is) one of the worst cases of torture of a child that we have ever investigated – cuts, lacerations, signs of sexual assault, bite marks, head trauma," Bizzell said. "I have detectives out here, professional law enforcement officers, who are saddened by this. It is just unreal. We can not imagine someone who would do this to such a young child."

Authorities said that Richardson took the girl to Johnston Memorial Hospital in Smithfield around noon Friday, claiming she had fallen off a bed in the barn apartment where he lived. Hospital workers reported the case.

Bizzell said the barn was behind the house where Richardson's grandparents live. It had no running water or bathroom. Richardson and the girl slept on an air mattress, the sheriff said.

Dr. Michael Teague, a forensic psychologist and criminal profiler, said in abuse situations like this, the suspect is trying to take unresolved anger out on the victim.

“They take it out on the weakest person. It’s a very cowardly act to be abusing somebody that small,” Teague said. 

Richardson was charged with felony child abuse and placed in the Johnston County jail under a $1 million bond.

In 2008, Richardson was found guilty of assault on a female, according to court records. He was ordered to enter an abuser treatment program and attend a domestic violence program in Johnston County.