Anna Ritchie, who is accused of burning her 4-year-old stepson to death in scalding hot water, was convicted of murder and is now facing more than 30 years in prison.
According to Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell, the 24-year-old Cincinnati, Ohio, woman did not like caring for her stepson, and he did not like taking baths. Unfortunately, it became a deadly combination.
According to reports, Anna Ritchie started watching Cooper Austin in January, so her husband could go to work during the day. Despite the fact that she had no criminal history, Fornshell confirmed the stepmother was overwhelmed and soon became abusive.
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The boy’s father, Robert Ritchie III, was reportedly aware of his wife’s violent behavior. However, he did nothing to intervene. Prosecutors said Robert will not be charged with any crime, as they are focused on prosecuting Anna for the child’s brutal death.
The average tolerable water temperature, for an adult, is 105 degrees. Authorities said the 4-year-old boy was placed in a bathtub filled with 135-degree water and held down for at least 20 minutes. The prosecutor said, “to be in a tub for a minute or two with water that hot would have to be the most excruciating pain you could go through.”
Although he was not immediately killed, Austin Cooper was heavily bleeding and his skin was peeling off. Unfortunately, Anna Ritchie simply dressed him in his pajamas and sent him to bed. The following morning, the little boy was dead.
Chief Russ Whitman said police officers and paramedics were dispatched to the Ritchie residence at approximately 9:30 a.m. Unfortunately, it was simply too late. The coroner later ruled Austin Cooper’s death a homicide, as he died from the third-degree burns.
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During a police interview, Anna Ritchie confessed she ran the water “hotter than usual” as punishment because Cooper did not like taking a bath. As reported by Dayton Daily News, the stepmother admitted the boy was screaming because the water was far too hot. However, she forced him to stay in the water for at least 20 minutes. She said she noticed “pieces of his skin inside the water” when she finally allowed him to get out of the tub.
Ritchie told police she applied ointment to the child’s wounds because she did not want the blood to soil the sheets. She also made him wear pajamas and socks so his father would not notice the extent of the burns.
The case was specifically heartbreaking, as the child was clearly in excruciating pain from the time he entered the tub until he died. During a police interview, Anna Ritchie admitted her stepson was crying for most of the evening.
According to detectives, Ritchie told her husband Cooper was burned. However, she told him not to check on the boy because he was sleeping. Robert Ritchie III did check on his son the following morning but found him unresponsive.
Cincinnati News reports Anna Ritchie was convicted on six felony counts, including two counts of murder, which carry a minimum sentence of 15 years in prison each. She was also convicted on numerous other criminal charges including two counts of endangering children, involuntary manslaughter, and felonious assault.
Missy True, Austin’s great aunt, gave a statement at the trial’s conclusion, “It’s not fair, he was just a little 4-year-old.” True wants the boy’s father to also face criminal charges, as he knew his son was being abused by his stepmother. Sheri Gredig, Cooper’s grandmother, said Ritchie deserves to spend the rest of her life inside the confines of a prison.
Anna Ritchie is currently being held in the Warren County Jail and is expected to appear in court again on Wednesday. Neither she nor her legal team have commented on her conviction.
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