A woman from Illinois is facing life in prison after being convicted of murdering her boyfriend’s 8-year-old daughter, following years of abuse.
Cynthia Baker was convicted of murder in the death of her boyfriend’s daughter, Rica Rountree, who died in January of peritonitis, a condition caused by ruptures of her intestine, according to testimony from forensic pathologist Dr. Scott Denton, WGLT reports.
On Nov. 19, the 41-year-old woman was found guilty of murder, aggravated battery of a child, domestic battery, and child endangerment after years of abusing Rica.
The abuse took place in front of her own children and was so commonplace that video evidence showed the other children walking by as Baker abused the little girl, WGLT reports.
The woman’s own daughter, 7, testified that she saw her mother kick Rica twice in the weeks before the girl’s death and in a separate incident she said her mother “laughed” after Rica hit her head on the TV stand, WGLT reports.
Baker and her boyfriend, Rica’s father, Richard Rountree, had video of the abuse on their cell phones, which was obtained by Normal Police after Baker’s arrest in April.
During the three days of testimony in mid-November, the state’s evidence included several disturbing videos of Baker and Rountree abusing Rica, WGLT reports.
The video showed little Rica in the family’s apartment in Bloomington where she was forced to hold cans in her outstretched arms for prolonged periods of time.
Whenever her arms would fall, Baker would put her hands around the child’s neck and say, “Do I need to put a collar on you?” A video recorded by Baker and shared with Rountree showed her banging the girl’s head against a wall and slapping her naked body, WGLT reports.
While Rountree was not charged in the murder of his daughter, he did condone Baker’s abuse of the child, according to text messages shared with jurors.
In the text messages, the couple exchanged complaints about Rica and their mutual desire that she live somewhere else, WGLT reports.
Rountree presented Normal police with a letter he received from Baker during a weekend jail visit in which she urged him “to lie and take the blame” for Rica’s death during his testimony. He never testified, WGLT reports.
Assistant State’s Attorney Erika Reynolds said during her closing remarks to the jury how Rica “was battered and abused in front of every kid in this house,” WGLT reports.
“For most, it’s unthinkable but for Rica, it was normal,” Reynolds said during closing arguments, People reports. “Rica was treated as less than as this defendant’s punching bag and her pain served as entertainment for the entire family.”
Rica’s mother, Ann Simmons, who is currently serving 2.5 years in prison for forgery case and for failing to complete the terms of her probation on an aggravated DUI charge, told WFLT, “Everybody failed her. I failed her,” according to People.
An autopsy reported that Rica had slowly died from internal injuries after Baker kicked her in the stomach.
The report also stated that Rica had 67 marks as a result of extensive abuse all over her body, People reports.
According to DCFS, Rica died 16 days after her mother was sentenced, People reports.
Rica is one of 103 children who have died this year while involved with DCFS in Illinois, according to WGLT.
“My daughter should have not have ever died. It should have never been this way,” Simmons said, People reports.
“DCFS is deeply saddened by the loss of Rica Rountree,” the agency said in a statement to WGLT.
“During her time with her father, DCFS conducted multiple investigations into allegations of abuse and found these allegations to be unfounded,” the agency’s statement continued.
“There is currently a pending investigation into this death and we are committed to understanding exactly what happened in this case and being fully transparent with the public.”
“DCFS is working closely with the new administration to review our practices, policies, and procedures in order to fully live up to our mission to protect vulnerable children in Illinois.”
Due to the heinous nature of the crime, Baker is facing life in prison and will be sentenced on Feb. 3, 2020, WGLT reports.
(Photo: Normal Police Department)