BLOOMINGTON (WEEK) — The murder trial of Cynthia Baker has entered its second week and both prosecutors and defense have rested, with closing arguments expected Monday afternoon.
Baker is accused of killing her 8-year-old stepdaughter Rica Rountree, who prosecutors say died after being kicked in the stomach. Baker faces six charges in connection to the child’s death and if found guilty, could be sentenced to natural life in prison.
The defense, who said had five witnesses were scheduled to give testimonies, only called three to the stand Monday. Baker, who was one of those scheduled, decided not to testify in her case.
Prosecutors told the court they were in possession of a letter sent from Baker to Rountree’s father, Richard Rountree, instructing him to “take the blame.” Prosecutors planned to use the letter as evidence if Baker or Richard Rountree testified.
Richard Rountree was being interviewed at the McLean County Sheriff’s office Monday morning, but the defense said they planned to wait until the interview was over to see if they wanted to call him to the stand.
The other witnesses included one of Rica Rountree’s teachers, a school nurse and a teacher’s assistant.
The first witness was Rica Rountree’s second-grade teacher at District 87. The teacher described Rountree as, “active, bubbly, smart.” He continued by saying he practiced “restorative justice” when it came to dealing with students and said he felt Rica Rountree did well with this by verbalizing her issues.
He said Rica Rountree visited the nurse 23 times while in his class, but said that number is low compared to other students.
He said he did describe Rica Rountree as having a “fat swollen lip” once during school.
A school nurse with Unit 5 then took the stand saying she knew Rountree for a number of years, but said she only saw the child once for an “actual fall.”