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Teen charged with smothering two young children to death

A Ripley County teen faces two counts of murder for suffocating his two toddler siblings. 

He was detained Aug. 28 after two investigations over more than one year. The Ripley County Prosecutor’s Office filed a formal delinquency petition Sept. 6.

At the time of the first death, the then 13-year-old boy lived in Osgood, Indiana, with his mother Christina McCartney, her fiance Stephen Ritz and three young children, according to court documents. 

Emergency units were dispatched May 1, 2017 concerning an unresponsive child, nearly 2-year-old Desiree McCartney. She was taken to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, and was pronounced dead five days later. 

The cause and manner of the child’s death was initially undetermined, according to the autopsy. 

The boy had been left alone with Desiree while she took a bath that night. He said he left the bathroom for five minutes and returned to find Desiree floating on her belly in the water. He took her out of the bathtub, wrapped her in a towel and shook her. Her arms were floppy. 

He said he listened to her heartbeat, “bump, and bump.” 

Less than three months later, another 911 call was placed from the same residence. This time, for unresponsive 11-month-old Nathaniel Ritz. 

The boy had put Nathaniel to bed around 11 p.m. that night, according to initial reports. He called his mother when he noticed something wasn’t right.

The doctor said the child’s heart had probably stopped 20 or 30 minutes before emergency services arrived. The autopsy was inconclusive. 

Two detectives conducted separate investigations on the deaths.

A couple months later, the teen reportedly mutilated a kitten and wounded another while staying with his mother’s uncle and aunt, Bob and Candice Barker. Candice said he was carrying some sticks in his pocket, and she assumed he used them on the kittens. One was covered in blood, its insides hanging out.

Candice said the boy had such a bad temper. He reminded her of the Hulk.

A psychological evaluation detectives received in December 2017 revealed the boy made numerous statements about freeing his siblings from Satan and hell. 

He told detectives he was a Christian and was excited to show them his Bible when they came to visit. When they asked about the deaths of his siblings, he started to cry. 

The boy told detectives he put a towel over Desiree’s head and put a blanket on Nathaniel’s head the nights they died. 

The boy made similar confessions to his great-aunt, grandmother and uncle.

He didn’t plan these things to happen, he said, but he had to set the children free from the hell he lived in. He told detectives hell was chores. He told family members he had to protect the children from Stephen Ritz. 

In January 2018, while the boy was at a resource treatment facility in Indianapolis, he told a staff member he had broken one of the Ten Commandments, thou shall not kill. He said he killed his brother and sister. 

Revised autopsies released in January 2018 ruled both deaths homicides due to smothering. 

Ripley County Prosecuting Attorney Ric Hertel commented on the case in a press conference Wednesday morning.

“In my time here, which has been 19 years, I’m not sure that I’ve seen anything quite as disturbing, and as final, as something like this,” Hertel said. 

The boy had an initial hearing Sept. 10, where the judge ordered a competency evaluation and a waiver to try him in adult court. Two doctors will evaluate the boy and present their findings to the judge. Afterward, the judge will determine whether to follow through with the waiver. 

Hertel said he will not rule out the possibility of charges against the parents, but the focus right now is on the boy and his alleged actions. 

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