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Ronald Ritchie Trial: Jury shown photos of scalded toddler’s body


The first day of the trial of Robert Ritchie, the Franklin father charged with involuntary manslaughter and felony child endangering in the scalding death of his 4-year-old son, has ended after opening statements and witnesses for the prosecution.

UPDATE @ 4:24 P.M. MONDAY:

Franklin Police Lt. Gerald Massey testified that Rob Ritchie told him he had lowered water temperature twice.

According to Massey, Rob Ritchie reported that the setting on the water heater was on the highest level and he turned it down after learning of Austin’s burns.

The first day of the trial has ended and is set to resume at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

UPDATE @4:11 P.M. MONDAY:

Third witness is Capt. Joshua Reed, Franklin firefighter who responded to the Ritchie home where 4-year-old Austin Cooper was found dead.

Reed testified that 4-year-old Austin was deceased when he arrived on scene, but the emergency doctor wanted the child to be transported to the hospital where life-saving measures were not successful.

UPDATE @ 3:38 P.M. MONDAY:

The first few witnesses called by the prosecution are Franklin Police Dispatcher Peggy Hembree and Franklin Police Officer Shannon Cotton.

Cotton testified about conversations with the defendant at the beginning of the investigation into the scalding death of the defendant’s son, 4-year-old Austin Cooper.

Cotton testified that defendant Robert Ritchie told an officer that the burns on the child were like a sunburn and that Ritchie said he heard the child the night before.

The 9-1-1 call from Ronald Ritchie was played in the courtroom. Ritchie told the dispatcher “my son died.”

The dispatcher advised Ritchie to attempt CPR, but Ritchie answered, “He’s stiff as a board.”

UPDATE@3:19 P.M. MONDAY:

The jury is being shown photos of the scalded body of 4-year-old Austin Cooper during the opening statements of the trial of Robert Ritchie.

UPDATE@1:25 P.M. MONDAY:

A jury of six men and six women has been selected in the trial of Robert Ritchie, the Franklin father charged with involuntary manslaughter and felony child endangering in the scalding death of his 4-year-old son.

During nearly three hours of questioning , Warren County Assistant Prosecutor Steven Knippen and defense attorneys Frank Schiavone III and Frank Schiavone IV told potential jurors the case would be difficult to hear and photos of the fatal injuries inflicted on Austin Cooper, “gruesome.”

“This involves a painful death to a child. You are going to see some gruesome, gruesome photos. Photos that no one should ever have to see,” Knippen said.

When a potential juror told Schiavone III that she knew looking at the photos of Austin would be difficult, Schiavone III said, “They are more than that, they are disgusting.”

Four potential jurors, all female and one who said she had lost a 6-month-old child, were dismissed after saying they did not know if they could view the photos or be impartial because the case involved the death of a child.

Ritchie is accused not seeking medical help for Austin after he was held in a bathtub of scaling water by his step-mother, Anna Ritchie. Prosecutors say Ritchie knew about the severe injuries but did nothing.

Anna Ritchie plead guilty to murder and is 18 years to life in prison. She is on the witness list to testify in her husband’s trial.

Opening statement are scheduled to begin at 2:15 p.m.

UPDATE @10:15 A.M. MONDAY:

After conference with prosecutors and defense attorneys, jury selection began at 10:15 a.m. in the trial of Robert Ritchie, the Franklin father charged with the involuntary manslaughter and felony endangering children in the scalding death of his 4-year-old son.

Warren County Common Pleas Judge Robert Peeler called for 33 potential jurors. The majority of the courtroom is filled, so most reported to serve their duty.

“Is there anyone who feels like they can not listen to the testimony and look of photos in the death of this child and be fair? …” Peeler asks the potential jurors. “It is going to be tough.”

Three women raised their hands. One woman who told the judge she lost a 6-month-year old was excused by the judge.

INITIAL REPORT:

Jury selection is scheduled to begin today in Warren County Common Pleas Court for a Franklin father charged in the death of his 4-year-old son.

Robert Ritchie, 31, of Bolder Drive, 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.

If convicted, Ritchie faces a maximum of 11 years in prison on the involuntary manslaughter charge and five years for child endangering.

Anna Ritchie is expected to testify at the trial. She was sentenced on Sept. 1 to 18 years to life in prison after pleading guilty to murder and other felonies for the death of Austin Cooper in March.

Prosecutors say Robert Ritchie knew about his son’s injuries and did not seek medical treatment. He is being held in the Warren County Jail in lieu of a $250,000 bond with a 10 percent rule.

On March 16 at her Franklin home, Anna Ritchie held the boy in a bathtub of scalding water, with an estimated temperature of 126 to 135 degrees, for about 25 minutes. When she pulled him out of the water, skin from Austin’s legs was in the bath water and the tops of his feet were bleeding, according to prosecutors.

Anna Ritchie, 25, put the child to bed, and he was found dead the next morning by Robert Ritchie.

Robert Ritchie knew the child had been burned through cell phone contact with his wife, according to court documents.

Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell said after learning his son was burned, Robert did not “set eyes on the child until 15 hours later when he was found deceased.”

Prosecutors showed gut-wrenching autopsy photos of the boy and the injuries he suffered during Anna Ritchie’s sentencing. Some of those photos will likely be shown to the jury in the Robert Ritchie trial.



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