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North Carolina Supreme Court confirms death sentence for man who raped, murdered a 4-year-old

 September 4, 2023

The Supreme Court of North Carolina on Friday confirmed the first-degree murder verdict and resulting death penalty for a man whom a jury determined had abused and inflicted severe harm on his then-girlfriend's 4-year-old child.

In a 6-1 decision, the State's high court upheld the verdict and the sentence for Jonathan Douglas Richardson in relation to the tragic passing of Teghan Skiba in July 2010, as Fox News reported.

Grisly Details of the Crime

In 2014, during Richardson's trial, the prosecution shared distressing details of how the young girl's life was extinguished.

While her mother was away for Army Reserve training in New Mexico, Richardson was entrusted with the child's care for a span of 10 days.

During this period, the atrocious crime unfolded. Living in an annex behind his grandparents' residence in Johnston County, Richardson was accused by investigators of causing severe harm to the girl.

In July 2010, Richardson took the girl to Johnston Medical Center, attributing her injuries to a fall from her bed. However, medical staff identified far more severe injuries, noting her body displayed bruises and bite marks.

Teghan died a few days later after being moved to the University of North Carolina Medical Center a few days later, as the Daily Mail reported.

A medical examination later confirmed the cause of Teghan's death as severe blunt-force injury to her head.

The subsequent investigation unveiled a series of agonizing wounds on the child's body -- from lacerations and puncture wounds to burns, bite marks, and visible bruising.

Furthermore, there was evidence pointing to sexual exploitation.

The court's proceedings weren't confined to this heinous act alone. Richardson faced multiple charges, which included kidnapping, committing a sexual offense against a minor, and child maltreatment.  The jury found him guilty on all counts.

Justice Deliberations and Dissent

Associate Justice Michael Morgan penned the prevailing opinion.

"We conclude that defendant received a fair trial and capital sentencing proceeding free of prejudicial error and that the death sentence recommended by the jury and imposed by the trial court is not excessive or disproportionate," Morgan detailed in his extensive opinion that spanned over 180 pages.

However, the decision did not come without some disagreement. Associate Justice Anita Earls voiced her dissent on the case. While she recognized and upheld the conviction, she expressed concerns about the sentencing phase of the case.

She posited that there was a need for a reevaluation of the sentence due to potential procedural issues in the trial court and the possibility that the state may have presented biased evidence.

Richardson, who is currently 34 years old, is now among more than 130 individuals awaiting their fate on North Carolina's death row.

The state last witnessed an execution back in 2006.