Rica Jae Rountree, Age 8, January 26, 2019, Bloomington, McLean County, Illinois
Rica Jae Rountree
April 16, 2010 – January 26, 2019
Eight year old Rica Jae Rountree was taken to the hospital January 26, 2019 in Bloomington, Illinois when she became unresponsive after reportedly having stomach pains for several days. The medical staff noticed a large bruise on her abdomen and immediately taken in to surgery for internal injuries. Rica died during the operation.
The autopsy report showed that Rica died ultimately from the kick to her stomach. Rica died slowly from internal injuries caused by the kick to the stomach. Rica had 67 marks on her body as a result of the long term abuse.
Father Richard Rountree had custody of Rica for two years. Every plea from Rica’s mother to the Department of Children and Family Services went unheard and ignored. Failing Rica.
For whatever reason, these videos still linger on the internet. I watched a horrifying video of Rica screaming in pain as Baker records the video from her phone showing a frail eight year old girl naked and freezing, holding heavy cans in each hand with both arms out to each side. You can hear Baker asking her if she needs to put a collar on Rica.
On other videos Baker is seeing banging Rica’s head against the wall and slapping her naked body. Every picture of Baker and every movement in the courtroom showed no sign of emotion or remorse. I have no doubt that what she got, she deserved, just short of my preference to the death penalty.
Rica’s body was cremated.
Baker’s daughter testified that she saw her kick Rica twice within the two weeks prior to her death. Every child in the house witnessed the abuse.
WGLT News reports.
Richard Rountree also participated in the abuse, according to evidence at Baker’s trial. The victim’s father shared a video with Baker of Rica being forced to stand on her head by her father. Richard Rountree’s other daughter participates in the abuse depicted in one video.
The torture of Rica confirmed by more than 50 scars chronicled in an autopsy report, was condoned by her father, according to text messages exchanged between Baker and her boyfriend. The cause of death was reported as peritonitis, a condition caused by ruptures of her intestine.
Teachers in Rica’s school should have noticed signs of abuse. WGLT News reports.
The defense called three witnesses during its case Monday—all staff from three schools Rica attended until her death 12 days after she was enrolled as a third grader in Prairieland Elementary School. The teacher, a school nurse and a teacher’s assistant recalled no concerns about Rica’s health. One witness noted Rica’s hair was unkept and were clothes were inferior to those worn by Baker’s daughter, then a kindergartener.
Baker was convicted of murder November 19, 2019
Baker was sentenced January 31, 2020
It is expected that Baker is requesting a new trial for ineffective counsel.
Baker’s sister has since been charged and arrested for witness harassment.
WGLT News reports.
Meanwhile, Baker’s sister, Victoria Baker, has been indicted on one count of witness harassment. She’s accused of communicating directly with Rica’s father, Richard Rountree, during Baker’s murder trial in “such a manner as to produce mental anguish or emotional distress.”
The charge appears linked to a letter that Richard Rountree received a letter from Cynthia Baker during the trial, just prior to his scheduled testimony. The letter allegedly urged him to “take the blame and lie” during his testimony, prosecutors said. Rountree did not ultimately testify. Cynthia Baker was in custody when the letter was sent.
Victoria Baker, 31, lives in Varna, around 50 miles northwest of Bloomington-Normal. A warrant was issued for her arrest following the Dec. 18 indictment. It’s unclear if she’s in custody.
DCFS under fire once again with ineffective casework. WGLT News reports.
In Rica’s case, the key question was why authorities in 2016 sent Rica to live with her father and Baker — a woman who twice before was placed on a list of known child abusers.
A month before Rica died, DCFS directed Baker to take Rica for X-rays after she showed up to school with two black eyes, and Baker declined to do it. Rica stayed in the home and, for the third time in 16 months, a DCFS investigation of Richard and Baker determined any claims of abuse to be “unfounded.”
Rica was dead several weeks later, from internal injuries she suffered after Baker kicked her in the stomach.
In January 2020, the father, Richard Rountree was final charged, yet given a plea agreement sentencing him to only eight years in prison for child endangerment.
Rica’s mother Anntionetta has come forward and spoken for her daughter’s justice. She speaks for her daughter as Rica no longer can. In an unexpected twist, Anntionetta has found it within her to forgive the father, Richard, but says that she does not agree with the sentencing. She told the court she believed no sentencing could be enough.
Richard responded in a statement for the court “I should have protected her better and I’m sorry,”
CENTRAL ILLINOIS PROUD News reported speaking to Anntionetta.
“They should’ve removed her from that house. They should’ve talked to her alone. They should’ve taken her seriously. Shes’ got marks on her. What medicine cabinet falls and hits a child in the face like that? I mean come on, do your jobs,” Rountree said.
This isn’t just over yet. Baker isn’t going down admitting a thing. In fact, she’s not ok with what she got. Because she is asking for a new trial, her sentencing is vacated. She has been charged with four counts of murder, one count of aagravated domestic battery, aggravated battery to a child, eight counts of domestic battery and two counts to cause child to be endangered. Case# 2019CF000416 is on hold until the next court date, March 31, 2020. There’s still a long roller coaster ride to go. I can’t imagine what she continues to put the family through.
Mom runs a group page on Facebook named ‘Justice 4 Rica Jae’. A fierce woman who clearly shows her passion, love, strength and grief for princess Rica.