Anna Ritchie, the 25-year-old Franklin, Ohio, stepmother of four-year-old Austin Cooper, was charged with six felonies including two counts of murder in connection with the child’s death, caused by forcing and then holding the boy in a tub of scalding hot water on March 15. Ritchie was also charged with felonious assault, involuntary manslaughter, and two counts of endangering children at her April 18 grand jury indictment, according to Cincinnati.com.
Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell said that as a form of punishment, the stepmother held Austin in a tub of 135-degree water for about 20 minutes. Cincinnati.com quoted the prosecutor as saying that “Just to be in that tub for a minute or two would have to be the most excruciating pain you could go through.” Fornshell added that the average water temperature for an adult’s bath is about 105 degrees.
Fornshell said that Ritchie resented being the full-time caregiver for her stepson while her husband, Austin’s father, went to work. And that was the primary motive given by prosecutors for the stepmom holding Austin in that 135-degree water.
Following being immersed in that tub of hot water, the child was bleeding, blistering and had skin falling from his body. Instead of seeking medical attention, Ritchie put the little boy in his pajamas and sent him to bed. When Austin’s father checked on his son the next day, the boy was already dead.
WCPO quoted a portion from the father’s 911 call placed on the morning of March 16. Austin’s father told the operator that he thought his son was dead. “He got into a hot bath last night with my wife and she thought he’d be OK.”
Prosecutors said that one of the most infuriating aspects of the case is that had the stepmother sought medical attention for Austin within two hours of his being scalded, that there’s a 95 percent chance that the little boy would have survived, according to medical experts. WCPO quoted Fornshell as saying “That’s the most horrific part of it. This was a completely treatable injury.”
WHIO shared several quotes from reporter Lauren Pack who posted several tweets from the courthouse today, including “Austin Cooper died of shock, from loss of blood and fluid from the burn injuries, Fornshell says based on coroner findings.” Pack also attributed the following to Fornshell: “dad was likely aware of Ritchie’s rough treatment in the past of his son. But no charges against him now,” and “This one hits close to home for all of us’ Half of body was burned. It is just infuriating.”
If convicted, Ritchie is looking at 30 years in prison for the murder charges alone. She’s scheduled to be back in court on April 20. For more on the tragic story and today’s court proceedings, see the video accompanying this article.