For the first time since her daughter was killed, Anntionetta Rountree sat in the same courtroom Friday with the woman convicted of inflicting the fatal blows that ended the 8-year-old's life.
Before the 11 a.m. hearing, Rountree told supporters at a rally outside the Law and Justice Center that she opposes a new trial for Cynthia Baker, the woman accused of killing Rica Rountree in January 2019. She also called for charges against the child's father, Richard Rountree, and his teenage daughter.
“Richard gets no sympathy—period. I went to court 101 times to get my daughter back,” Rountree said of her long custody battle that ended with her former husband and Baker having the child in their care for two years.
Rountree delivered her emotional remarks as she clutched an urn holding her daughter’s ashes. A poster depicting multiple injuries suffered by Rica at the hands of Baker was displayed at the rally.
Rountree supporter Darlene Hedrick told the group the court and child welfare system failed to protect Rica despite her obvious recurring injuries.
Released From Prison
In December, Rountree was released from prison after serving about a year on forgery charges and failure to complete probation terms for aggravated DUI. (She also goes by the name Anntionetta Simmons. She told WGLT she is now using the last name Rountree because it was her daughter's.)
Rountree said prayer and the support of friends and family gave her the strength to attend Baker’s hearing.
Baker appeared in court with her new lawyer, Philip Finegan, who intends to seek a new a new trial for Baker based on her claims that she received ineffective assistance from her previous lawyer Todd Ringel. Preparation for such a claim requires review of trial transcripts and other materials in Baker’s case, Finegan told Judge Casey Costigan.
Baker’s Jan. 31 sentencing was delayed until the defense motion for a new trial is resolved. The new court date is Feb. 24.
Rountree met with prosecutors after the brief court hearing. Afterwards, she said she understands the legal process but regrets the postponement for Baker’s sentencing.
“I trust in the system that failed me to not fail my family,” said Rountree.
Acknowledging her impatience with the justice system, Rountree said, “every day it’s like my daughter is dying again.”
Jurors in Baker’s case were shown disturbing videos of a portion of the abuse the girl suffered in the Baker-Rountree home. The videos recorded by Baker on her cell phone and collected later by police depict the frail child being forced to hold cans as she stood naked and shivering. In another video, the girl shrieks and runs away as she is threatened by Baker.
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.
Richard Rountree has not been charged in connection with his daughter’s death. The case remains under investigation, according to authorities.
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