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Prosecutor on why he didn’t seek death penalty in buried baby case

Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell admits the case of a Carlisle teen charged with aggravated murder and other felonies for allegedly killing her newborn baby and burning the child’s body has challenges due to the condition of the baby’s remains.

Fornshell made the comments in an interview with this news outlet before a Warren County judge issued a gag order Thursday precluding all parties involved in the case from making statements.

Brooke Skylar Richardson, who graduated from Carlisle High School in May, is accused of giving birth to a baby just days after her prom, killing it, burning the body and then burying it in the backyard of her home.

MORE: Warren County prosecutor outlines challenges in buried baby case

She is charged with aggravated murder, involuntary manslaughter, endangering children, tampering with evidence and abuse of a corpse.

Warren County Coroner Dr. Russell Uptegrove told this news outlet early last week: “We may never be able to tell, in a vacuum through science, how the baby died due to the condition of the remains, unfortunately.”

Fornshell said that was one of the factors he considered when making the decision whether or not to seek the death penalty.

“There was evidence presented to the grand jury that she purposely caused the death of the child.… The grand jury found probable cause that she purposely caused the death of the baby, but that is a far cry proving beyond a reasonable doubt to get the death penalty,” Fornshell said.

MORE: What both sides are saying in the Carlisle buried baby case

None of those in the prosecutor’s office who reviewed the case believed successfully getting the death penalty was possible, he said.

“This whole discussion was had in my office, and there wasn’t a single prosecutor or assistant prosecutor that looked at this case and believed that this was one where we would be likely to obtain the death penalty,” Fornshell said.

Richardson was also indicted on a much lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter for the alleged death of the baby. Fornshell said the charges all come down to interpretation of the evidence by a jury.

MORE: Carlisle baby buried in teen’s backyard was a girl, prosecutor says

“So, depending on how you interpret the evidence, you can assign different levels of mental culpability to action or inaction,” Fornshell said. “(You can say) I think this was a purposeful killing, I think this was a somebody who at a minimum was reckless in terms of their care, or lack there of, of a newborn child because they did not want the child.”

MORE: Judge issues gag order in Carlisle buried baby case

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