The Richmond Register

December 19, 2013

Couple arrested in Richmond to be tried February in child’s death

By Sarah Hogsed
Register News Writer

RICHMOND — A couple arrested in Richmond and charged with the murder of a 1-year-old child is set to stand trial in February in Ohio.

Whitney E. Johnson, 27, the boy’s mother, and Nathan E. Ritze, 26, her boyfriend, were living in Richmond when they were arrested May 31 by local police.

The Hillsboro, Ohio, police had received a tip asking about the whereabouts of Garin Niehaus, according to the Times-Gazette newspaper of Hillsboro. Police found the child’s body buried in a wooded, rural area the same day the couple in Richmond was arrested.

Johnson told police Garin had died of pneumonia, and she and Ritze had buried him in the woods Dec. 19, the newspaper reported.

Johnson and Ritze were extradited to Ohio following their arrests. They appeared Tuesday in Highland County Common Pleas Court for a final pretrial hearing, according to the Times-Gazette.

They are set to stand trial Feb. 3.

The couple pleaded not guilty in August to charges of murder, felony child abuse, abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence.

They also were indicted on a charge of involuntary manslaughter. Kentucky courts typically do not have lesser-included charges in grand jury indictments, but trial juries can sometimes consider a lower-penalty charge at trial.

The Ohio newspaper reported that Johnson and Ritze could receive prison sentences of 15 years to life on the murder charge, or three to 11 years if instead convicted of involuntary manslaughter.

An official cause of the child’s death has not been publicly released, according to the Ohio newspaper.

Sarah Hogsed can be reached at shogsed@richmondregister.com or 624-6694.