SMITHFIELD: Trial begins for man charged in girl's death - WHLT 22 Connecting the Pine Belt

Trial begins for Johnston Co. man charged in girl's death

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Jonathan Richardson is charged with first-degree murder in the death of 4-year-old Teghan Alyssa Skiba. Jonathan Richardson is charged with first-degree murder in the death of 4-year-old Teghan Alyssa Skiba.
SMITHFIELD, N.C. -

The trial for a Johnston County man accused of torturing and killing a 4-year-old girl in 2010 began Monday morning in Johnston County Superior Court.

Jonathan Douglas Richardson is charged with first-degree murder in the death of 4-year-old Teghan Alyssa Skiba. Richardson is also charged with first-degree rape in the case.

Prosecutors said Monday that Teghan suffered 10 days of torture and torment at the hands of Richardson.

However defense attorney Jonathan Broun argued that Richardson was neglected by his mother and that he had no sexual intent towards Teghan.

Jurors for Richardson's trial are from Harnett County and are being bused to Johnston County.

If convicted, Richardson could face the death penalty.

On July 6, 2010, Skiba's mother, Helen Reyes, left her daughter with Richardson before she was sent to New Mexico for military training. Authorities said Reyes and Teghan had recently moved in with Richardson into a barn on his grandparents' property in Smithfield.

Johnston County Sheriff Steve Bizzell said the barn had no bathroom, no running water and a single air mattress on the floor for sleeping.

Bizzell said Richardson initially brought Teghan to the hospital July 16, 2010, claiming she had fallen out of bed. However personnel from Johnston Medical Center contacted police after discovering Teghan had bite marks, cuts, severe head trauma and appeared to have been tortured and sexually assaulted.

At the time Richardson told authorities he became upset when the girl wet the bed they were sharing and that he "lost it," whipping the girl with a drop cord. Warrants said Richardson told authorities he was bipolar and "little things set him off."

Richardson was charged with felony child abuse July 16, 2010, and Teghan later died July 19, 2010, at UNC Hospitals, resulting in a first-degree murder charge for Richardson.

Reyes was charged with negligent child abuse/serious bodily injury. A warrant for Reyes' arrest said she "had first-hand knowledge that this type of abuse had occurred prior to July 5 by Jonathan Richardson."

The warrant also stated that Reyes subjected her daughter to "verbal threats, intimidation, forced consumption of alcohol, severe physical beatings and assault by biting."

Bizzell said Reyes had told authorities she was scared of Richardson.

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