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Rica Rountree's Father Gets 8 Years After Guilty Plea

Richard and Cynthia
Richard Rountree, left, was charged with child endangerment. Cynthia Baker was previously convicted in Richard's daughter's death.

The father of an 8-year-old girl killed in 2019 by his girlfriend pleaded guilty Thursday to child endangerment.

Richard Rountree was sentenced to eight years in prison as part of the plea agreement with the state.

Rountree, of Normal, was charged in January with endangering the life of Rica Rountree. The child died of injuries related to blows inflicted by Cynthia Baker. Baker was convicted of murder in November. She faces life in prison when she is sentenced in April.

The jury that convicted Baker watched video collected by authorities from Baker’s cell phone. The disturbing video showed the frail child forced to hold cans in her outstretched arms as she stood naked in a bedroom. Before she was found unresponsive in her bed, state child welfare authorities investigated numerous other injuries on the child, including a broken tooth and facial bruises.

Rica and her doll
Credit Family Photo
Rica Rountree, 8, was a Unit 5 student.

An autopsy detailed more than 50 scars and marks on the child, injuries a pathologist attributed to child abuse.

Richard Rountree was depicted in the videos as a bystander to the abuse. He also recorded the girl being ordered by him to stand on her head.

In her emotional victim impact statement read in court, Rica’s mother Anntionetta Rountree told her former husband she has forgiven him, but she does not agree with the eight-year sentence.

“Whatever the sentence is, it will never be enough. Rica was 8 years old and you are her dad, you were supposed to be protecting her from the pain that you brought to her,” said the victim’s mother.

“I feel like you deserve to die in prison,” she said.

Richard Rountree asked Public Defender Carla Barnes to read his brief statement directed to his ex-wife.

“I should have protected her better and I’m sorry,” said the statement.

In a statement of facts read in court by Assistant State’s Attorney Mary Koll Rountree, prosecutors laid out the timeline of abuse spread over several months. The girl’s father knew and participated in some of the physical and emotional harm, said the prosecutor. He did not protect the child or intervene, she said.

After the hearing, McLean County State's Attorney Don Knapp said the eight-year term mirrors the 2016 sentence imposed for a woman charged in connection with the death of her 3-year-old son.

“The sentence is consistent with the judgement imposed on Danielle Fischer in similar, albeit not the exact same circumstances related to endangering the life of a child,” said Knapp.

Nicholas Compton is serving life in prison for causing the internal injuries that killed Robbie Cramer.

“Acknowledging that no sentence or punishment can ever adequately counterbalance the loss of life, we believe this sentence is appropriate,” said Knapp.

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Edith began her career as a reporter with The DeWitt County Observer, a weekly newspaper in Clinton. From 2007 to June 2019, Edith covered crime and legal issues for The Pantagraph, a daily newspaper in Bloomington, Illinois. She previously worked as a correspondent for The Pantagraph covering courts and local government issues in central Illinois.
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