Jurors begin deliberation in 8-year-old girl murder case

Local News

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — Accused of kicking an 8-year-old girl to death, the fate of a McLean County woman is now in the hands of a jury.

Closing arguments began Monday in Cynthia Baker’s trial after she decided to not testify. Both sides made final arguments in the case, while Baker sat silent.

Her attorney, Todd Ringel, previously had said Baker was going to testify. With that, the defense rested with no rebuttal from the state, putting closing arguments on track for 2 p.m.

She’s facing more than 200 years in prison if convicted of charges including murder, aggravated battery, domestic battery and endangering a child.

Prosecutors said Baker kicked 8-year-old Rica Rountree in the stomach. The fatal blow in what they allege was a case of continuous child abuse. Rountree died from abdominal injuries at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria on Jan. 25.

At the time, Baker was dating the girl’s father, Richard Rountree.

Prosecutors made their case on text messages the couple exchanged, complaining about the girl. But the most graphic evidence in the case included videos from Baker’s cellphone that were played during witness testimony Friday, and again during closing arguments.

The recordings appear to show Baker kicking Rountree in the back, slamming her head into a wall, and forcing her to stand naked, holding up cans of food until she couldn’t anymore.

Baker’s own defense told jurors she’s guilty of battery, but not murder.

Rountree’s father Richard spent the morning being interrogated at the McLean County Sheriff’s Office before he went to the Law and Justice Center. It was revealed Baker gave Richard a letter, asking him to “take the blame” for her. The defense was planning to use it if either of the two were to testify.

Rountree gave the letter to the Normal Police Department.

Additionally, Rountree’s second-grade teacher, a District 87 school nurse, and teaching assistant took the stand. The nurse had said Rountree went to the nurse’s office more than 20 times.

The teaching assistant said the girl looked “always tired” and “worn-out.” She also said that Rountree was always “walking slow” compared to her sister, who seemed more active.

This story will be updated.

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