Jurors hear father’s police interview in Franklin boy’s scalding death

The jury heard from Robert Ritchie for the first time Tuesday in the second day of his trial in the death of his son when a Franklin police interrogation tape was played in court.

Ritchie, 31, is charged with involuntary manslaughter and felony child endangering for allegedly not seeking medical treatment for his son Austin, who was held in a bathtub of scalding water by his stepmother, Anna Ritchie.

In a 30-minute interview with Det. Steven Figliola, Ritchie said he got home from work about 6:30 p.m. on March 15 and was told his 4-year-old son was in bed. Anna Ritchie told him Austin was burned on his feet in the bathtub in what she described as a “sunburn.” She said she put ointment on his legs and put him to bed, Robert Ritchie told the detective.

“I could hear him through the door talking to his toys,” Robert Ritchie said during the interview. “As long as I could hear him, I knew he was alright.”

When Figliola ask Robert Ritchie if he ever checked on the child, he answered, “I know I should have.”

Robert Ritchie shook and paced and at one point told the detective he thought he was going to pass out during the interview.

The morning after the bathtub scalding, Anna Ritchie left the house early and went to the library. Robert Ritchie said he when into his son’s room and picked him up, Austin was stiff.

“I couldn’t believe it, felt like a prank or something,” Robert Ritchie told the detective.

Figliola testified that he believed Anna Ritchie did minimize the injuries Austin suffered “but through investigation I believe he knew about he severity of the injuries.”

During cross examination, defense attorney Frank Schiavone III pointed to a transcript of Anna Ritchie’s interview with police in which she says she is responsible for Austin’s injuries as well as statements she made stating she told Robert Ritchie to leave him alone a let him sleep after he was injured.

Schiavone III also pointed to photos taken of Austin’s clothing, noting he was wearing long pants and socks, noting Anna Ritchie was hiding the injuries from her husband.

Prosecution expert witness Dr. Richard Kagan, retired doctor from Shriners Hospital Cincinnati, testified Austin suffered second and third-degree burns over 28 percent of his body.

Kagan said if Austin had received medical treatment, he would have survived.

Defense attorneys pointed out on cross examination that Kagan was paid by the prosecution to testify.

Mary Lou Lyons, a neighbor of Robert and Anna Ritchie who lived in the apartment above the Ritchies on Boulder Drive, was nervous as she took the stand in Warren County Common Pleas Court. Her voice broke as she introduced herself to the jury.

Lyons said that from her couch, she can see the front entrance to the steps of the apartment building. On March 15, the day prosecutors say Austin was fatally injured, she saw Annie Ritchie come outside the building in the afternoon and pace.

“Rob pulled up, they conversed for about 15 minutes and they went upstairs,” Lyons said.

She added Anna was dressed “sexy.” Anna Ritchie was dressed in a black mini dress, Lyons said, which is much different than her usual style.

“I though she and Rob had a date,” Lyons said.

Lyons said she never heard any noise from the Ritchie residence. She described Robert Ritchie as a good father.

“He was proud,” Lyons said.

Anna Ritchie is now serving a 18 years to life sentence for Austin’s death after pleading guilty to murder. She was transported from prison to the Warren County Jail on Nov. 23 in anticipation of testifying in her husband’s trial. It is uncertain if she will be called.

Dr. Christopher Kiefer, former deputy coroner for the Warren County Coroner’s Office, began showing gut-wrenching photos of Austin’s autopsy.

The 4-year-old suffered severe burns to his buttocks, genitalia and lower legs. He also had marks on his arms consistent with fingernails, Kiefer said.

Kiefer testified Austin died as a result of his scalding injuries. The loss of fluid from the severe burns caused his heart to pump harder and it eventually stopped.

During cross examination by defense attorney Frank Schiavone III, Kiefer said an injury to Austin’s lip could have been caused by someone placing a hand over his mouth or “gagging him.”

The trial continues Wednesday in Judge Robert Peeler’s courtroom.

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