By: TANASIA KENNEY
The mother of slain Illinois girl Rica Rountree came face to face with her daughter’s killer for the first time on Friday at a court hearing that ended with the suspect’s sentencing hearing being delayed.
Anntionetta Rountree is now calling for charges against her child’s father and demanding accountability from the system she says failed to protect her young daughter.
In November, a jury convicted Cynthia Baker of first-degree murder in the death of her then-boyfriend’s daughter, 8-year-old Rica Rountree. The child died last January after ongoing violence and abuse at the hands of Baker and, allegedly, her own father.
“I’m seeking full justice,” Anntoinetta Rountree told Peoria station WMDB after the hearing. “Everybody that got up on the stand, ’cause I wasn’t there, [but] everybody that got up on that stand and said they saw something, is responsible for my daughter’s death.”
Baker was set to be sentenced Jan. 31, but that hearing was delayed last Friday by trial Judge Casey Costigan to give Baker’s new attorney time to review her case. Last month, the Normal, Illinois, woman hired a new lawyer to take up her case in her efforts to earn a new trail, arguing ineffective counsel from her previous lawyer, Todd Ringel.
Her new counsel, Phil Finegan, requested additional time to gather more information related to the case, and the ask was granted by a judge.
Rountree, who rallied with community members outside the McLean County Law and Justice Center during Baker’s hearing in Bloomington, Illinois, was less than pleased with the decision.
“She’s guilty, she needs to just accept her guilt and just go to prison and start her time,” the grieving mother said.
Clutching her daughter’s ashes in an urn, an emotional Rountree said it was the support of her family and friends that gave her the strength to attend Baker’s hearing. She was incarcerated during Baker’s murder trial but was released from prison last month after a year-long stint for forgery and failure to complete the terms of her probation for an aggravated DUI, WGLT reported.
Rountree, who previously used the surname Simmons prior to her child’s death, lamented the lengthy custody battle that resulted in her daughter’s father and Baker having the girl in their care for two years. She said her concerns for her daughter’s safety fell on deaf ears or were overlooked because she’s a felon.
“They should’ve removed her from that house,” she said. “They should’ve talked to her alone. They should’ve taken her seriously. She got marks on her. People that are mandated to speak on behalf of our kids, they need to either stop working in their jobs, and let somebody come in that’s going to protect our kids or they need to do their jobs because Rica did not need to die.”
Authorities said Baker kicked the child in stomach, causing life-threatening trauma and internal ruptures that eventually killed her. A pathologist also noted more than 60 marks and bruises to the child’s body as evidence of ongoing physical abuse.
At Baker’s trial, the jury was shown disturbing videos in which Rica was made to hold cans in her outstretched arms for extended periods of time while standing naked. In another, an older daughter of Rica’s father, Richard Rountree, was seen participating in the abuse, which included kicking, beatings and other forms of humiliation.
Police also obtained text messages between Baker and Richard, expressing disdain for the young girl. Despite evidence that he condoned Baker’s abuse of his daughter, Richard Rountree remains uncharged in her death.
Anntoinetta Rountree hopes that will soon change.
“Richard, ’cause I won’t call him her dad, Richard needs to face charges,” she told WMDB. “Kelsey, the girl, the daughter, needs to face charges.”
Baker’s sentencing is rescheduled for Feb. 24.
Richard Roundtree, the father of Rica Rountree, was arrested by police Tuesday for circumstances surrounding the death of his daughter, local outlet WEEK-TV has reported.
Normal Police booked Rountree on multiple charges including felonious endangerment of the life or health of a minor. His alleged conduct in relation to his daughter also makes him eligible for an extended-term sentence, authorities said.
Rountree remains in custody on $100,000 bond.