The trial of
Jolynn Ritchie

updated: 2-15-96
  On Feb. 14, 1996 Therressa Jolynn Ritchie was found guilty of murder in the 1995 beating death of her 4-year-old daughter, Samantha.
  She was sentenced to 20.5 years to life.
  On July 18, 1995 a massive search began for four-year-old Samantha Ritchie after she was reported missing from her North Dayton home.
   For four days police and volunteers scoured the area, and on the night of July 21 Samantha's body was found in a water-filled pit.
   Twelve days later Samantha's mother was charged with homicide.

Therressa Jolynn Ritchie
Ernest Vernell Brooks
The defense team
The prosecution
The judge

Short chronology:
(A more detailed pre-trial chronology is also available )

7-18-95 -- Samantha last seen alive at 1:30 a.m. at the home of Ritchie's neighbor Vicki Hammond. Police later conclude she died between then at 3 a.m. At 11 a.m. Ritchie calls 911 to report Samantha missing.
7-19-95 -- Volunteers search the neighborhood and conduct a candlelight vigil outside Ritchie's home. The story dominates local media coverage and Samantha's photo is seen everywhere. Over the next few days the search involves more than 700 volunteers, hundreds of hours of overtime for police and the distribution of almost 30,000 fliers with Samantha's photo.
7-21-95 -- Samantha's body is found submerged in a water-filled pit at the nearby GHR Foundry.
8-3-95 -- Ritchie and Ernest Vernell Brooks are arrested.
8-31-95 -- Ritchie is indicted for murder.
9-14-95 Brooks pleads guilty to gross abuse of a corpse, obstruction of justice and tampering with evidence. He agrees to testify against Ritchie.

The trial:

1-29-96 -- Ritchie's trial begins with jury selection.

1-31-96 -- A jury is seated; six men and six women. The jury visits the former Ritchie home at 809 Herman Ave. Defense and prosecution deliver their opening statements.

2-1-96 --In the first day of testimony, Prosecutor Mathias Heck shows the jury a series of photos, beginning with the now familiar portrait. Other photos show Samantha's body after her death. Deputy Coroner Dr. Lee Daniel Lehman testifies about the severity of Samantha's injuries.

2-2-96 -- Ritchie's neighbor Vicky Hammond testifies about the cast Ritchie was wearing at the time of Samantha's disappearance. Hammond says Ritchie once said it would make a good weapon.Hammond says Ritchie later took off the cast at Hammond's home and wanted to put it in the trash. Hammond secretly kept the cast and gave it to police.

The jury also hears from Peggy Powell, who was visiting Ritchie the night before Samantha was reported missing, and from officer Tracy Vukovic, who was the first police officer on the scene.

2-5-96 -- Ernest Vernell Brooks testifies, saying he saw Jolynn Ritchie beat Samantha to death with her cast and with a wrench. But Brooks also admits to giving several false statements to police.

2-6-96 -- Homicide investigator Thomas Lawson testifies. The retired Dayton Police detective says he heard Jolynn Ritchie confess during interrogation.

2-7-96 -- The prosecution rests its case after four detectives testified they heard Ritchie confess.

2-9-96 -- The defense case begins with testimony from Indiana University pathologist Dr. Michael Allen Clark .
2-14-96 -- After five hours of deliberation the jury finds Ritchie guilty of murder, gross abuse of a corpse, two counts of tampering with evidence and two misdemeanors; making a false alarm and inducing panic.

Therressa Jolynn Ritchie

DOB: Oct. 21, 1970
Address: 809 Herman Ave.
Convicted of: murder, gross abuse of a corpse, two counts of tampering with evidence and two misdemeanors; making a false alarm and inducing panic.
Sentence: 20.5 years to life.

Background on Jolynn Ritchie:

(published 8/4/95 )

Ernest Vernell "Vern" Brooks

DOB: 4/19/52
Address: 704 Webster
Charges against him: gross abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence
Guilty plea: On Sept. 14, 1995 Brooks pleaded guilty to the charges against him and agreed to testify against Ritchie.
Brooks' criminal record: Brooks also faces felony theft charges in Tennessee. See DDN story Aug. 10, 1995.