Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Illinois Woman Convicted of Killing Stepdaughter in ‘Unthinkable’ Case of Child Abuse

Cynthia Baker

*An Illinois woman was convicted earlier this murder for domestic battery in the death of her 8-year-old stepdaughter. 

41-year-old Cynthia Baker was found guilty of murder, aggravated battery and endangering the life of Rica Rountree, WGLT reports. Baker allegedly kicked the little girl in the stomach so hard that her intestines ripped apart. She later died from internal injuries during an operation in a Peoria hospital.

During the three-month investigation into the child’s death, police uncovered cell phone videos of Baker abusing Rica, including one of her forcing the child to strip naked and hold cans with her aims extended like the wings of an airplane for long durations of time, PEOPLE reports. Whenever Rica’s would lower her arms, Baker would wrap her hands around the child’s neck and say, “Do I need to put a collar on you?”

In another video, Baker can be seen dragging Rica to her bedroom by the neck.

Sadly, the child’s father, Richard Rountree, condoned Baker’s abuse of the child.

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“For most, it’s unthinkable but for Rica, it was normal,” Erika Reynolds, McLean County Assistant State’s Attorney, said during closing arguments. “In the 407 Stanhope residence, Rica was treated as less than as this defendant’s punching bag and her pain served as entertainment for the entire family.”

Speaking to WFLT, Rica’s mother, Ann Simmons, blamed herself and DCFA for failing the child. 

“Everybody failed her. I failed her,” said Simmons, who is currently serving 2.5 years in prison for forgery and DUI-related charges.

“I begged DCFS in January and I told them I didn’t care where Rica went, but somebody needs to go check on my daughter because they were going to kill her,” Simmons said.

“I told them that my daughter was being tortured and was suffering,” Simmons said. “Even though I was telling the truth, my criminal history prevented anyone from taking me serious.”

DCFS issued a statement to WGLT, noting that Rica’s case was under investigation.

“DCFS is deeply saddened by the loss of Rica Rountree,” the agency said. “During her time with her father, DCFS conducted multiple investigations into allegations of abuse and found these allegations to be unfounded. There is currently a pending investigation into this death and we are committed to understanding exactly what happened in this case and being fully transparent with the public. DCFS is working closely with the new administration to review our practices, policies, and procedures in order to fully live up to our mission to protect vulnerable children in Illinois.”

Baker is set to be sentenced in February.

WMBD news anchor Eugene Daniel III detailed some of the atrocities that were revealed during the trial. Read his full Twitter thread here

Ny MaGee
Ny MaGee is a screenwriter and freelance reporter from Chicago -- currently living in Los Angeles and covering A-list entertainment for various outlets, including Emmys.com. She has worked for: Miramax, MTV & VH1, The Jim Henson Company, Hallmark Channel, Paramount Pictures, and for iconic indie film producer Roger Corman.

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