Texts, videos between Cynthia Baker, 8-year-old’s father shown in court; pathologist testifies

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BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — More than 50 injuries and marks – that’s what a doctor says he found on the body of 8-year-old Rica Rountree.

Cynthia Baker is in on trial in McLean County for the child’s murder. On the fourth day of the trial, the jury saw dozens of photos of Rountree’s body, revealing both internal and external injuries.

Baker, 42, of Normal, was arrested in April. She is accused of fatally kicking Rountree in the stomach, which led to massive internal injuries that eventually killed her. 

Texts between the child’s father, Richard Rountree, and Baker were read in court Friday afternoon.

The texts between the two also included photos of Rountree doing handstands in a corner, instructed by her father.

Prosecutors also showed iCloud videos from Baker’s phone. In one, Rountree is seen crying and walking around a home. Baker tells her to go to her room, and when she does not, the camera gets closer to Rountree and audible slaps are hears as Rountree cries more. The video then ends.

In another video, Baker instructs Rountree to hold two cans straight out, and tells her not to test her. Baker leaves the room, while the camera rolls on the girl alone in the room holding the cans. She is seen struggling to keep the cans above her head, and Baker and Rountree’s father can be heard having a conversation and laughing in a different room.

Baker returns to the room and hits Rountree on her backside for not holding the cans up the way she wanted her to. Eventually, after more than 15 minutes of video that was played in the courtroom of Rountree visibly struggling to hold the cans in the air, the iCloud clip ends.

Another video depicted the 8-year-old again holding out cans, this time in a hallway. The camera was set up to monitor her. Baker can be seen walking into the frame and telling Rountree to keep her arms straight out. Meanwhile, Richard and other kids can be seen walking by Rountree in the hallway, while holding other conversations.

Normal Police Detective Joe Gossmeyer said investigators combed through “several thousand texts.”

Baker’s defense, however, said there were about four months in-between Rountree’s death and the last of the texts that were deemed “relevant” in the investigation.

Earlier in the day, McLean County chief forensic pathologist John Denton, who performed an autopsy, showed bruises and marks all over the child’s body, including her head, thighs, and backside. However, the doctor testified, that damaged intestines from blunt trauma to her lower abdomen killed the child.

Denton said it was no accident.

“All-together the bottom line […] this is child abuse, repeatedly injuries to a child over numerous, I would say, weeks,” Denton said.

The defense asked if Denton could determine who may have caused the marks based on his findings, and he said he could not.

Prosecutors said Baker kicked Rountree, leading to her death. Denton says that is consistent with her injuries.

Additionally, one of Rountree’s classmates says the 8-year-old told her she was being abused before her death. The young child testified, telling jurors Rountree “hated” living with her dad because she always got injured.

When asked, ‘”Who did Rica say hurt her?”, she would respond “Her dad’s girlfriend.”

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