Jury finds Kedrowitz guilty in siblings’ deaths

Staff Reports

A former Rockcreek Elementary student whose family had lived in Elizabethtown has been found guilty in Ripley County on Level 1 felony murder charges in the smothering deaths of two of his siblings about 81 days apart.

Nickalas J. Kedrowitz, who was age 13 when charged and is now 17, was accused of the murder counts in the deaths of Desiree McCartney, 23 months, and Nathaniel Ritz, 11 months, according to court documents. He has been held in a Dearborn County juvenile detention center in Lawrenceburg.

Kedrowitz, who had lived in Osgood just before his arrest, had attended Rockcreek Elementary School southeast of Columbus until about 2014. The family then moved from Elizabethtown to Richmond, and later to Osgood in Ripley County, according to family members. He had almost completed sixth grade at Rockcreek when the family left Elizabethtown, family members said.

The Ripley County jury found Kedrowitz guilty Friday after a five-day trial in Ripley Circuit Court.

Kedrowitz, whose sentencing is set for Nov. 10, faces 55 years in prison on each count of murder, according to court officials.

Court documents state Desiree McCartney died after first responders were called to a home in the 200 block of South Maple Street in Osgood on May 1, 2017, in regard to unresponsive child.

Kedrowitz’s mother Christina McCartney was living in the home with her fiancé, Stephen Ritz, and four children, including Nickalas, who was then 13, Desiree, Nathaniel and Abigail, who was 1 year old, according to documents. Nickalas, Desiree and Abigail are McCartney’s children, McCartney said in an earlier interview. McCartney was not Nathaniel’s mother, but had been caring for him shortly after his birth, she said. Nathaniel was Ritz’s child and he had full custody of him, she said.

Desiree was taken by ambulance to Margaret Mary Community Hospital in Batesville, and then to Children’s Hospital in Cincinnati after being found unresponsive in a bathtub filled with water, according to court documents.

Nickalas told police that Desiree undressed herself and got in the bath by herself, and then threw up while in the bathtub, according to court documents. Nickalas went to get some wipes and told police when he returned five minutes later, Desiree was floating in the water on her belly and was unresponsive.

An autopsy conducted May 7, 2017, concluded Desiree’s cause and manner of death as undetermined, but the exam revealed a prolonged period of anoxia — lack of oxygen — to the brain, court documents state.

Three months later, McCartney called 911 telling responders that Nathaniel was unresponsive in their Osgood home, court documents state. The call was placed at 11:12 p.m. July 20, 2017.

Nathaniel was pronounced dead at 12:12 a.m. July 21, 2017 at the Batesville hospital, court records said.

The probable cause affidavit states that at 11 p.m., McCartney asked Nickalas to take Nathaniel to bed, in a bedroom Nickalas shared with the baby. Within a few minutes, Nickalas told his mother, “Something is not right with Nathaniel, he is not acting right,” the affidavit states.

An autopsy was conducted but a cause of death for Nathaniel could not be determined, the affidavit states.

After Nathaniel’s death, Nickalas was placed with his uncle, Jeff Barker, who also lived in Osgood, by the Indiana Department of Child Services.

In an interview with Nickalas on Dec. 13, 2017, the teen told police he had a conversation with God about Desiree and Nathaniel, but he could not talk about it because he promised God he wouldn’t tell anyone, according to the probable cause affidavit. He told detectives he had dreams about the two children after they died and talked about saving Desiree and Nathaniel from hell and the chains of fire, the affidvait states.

When Nickalas was asked to talk about what happened to Desiree, he initially said he couldn’t remember, the affidavit states. When asked about Nathaniel, Nickalas told police he placed the boy in the bottom bunk of bunk beds and placed a blanket on the infant’s head, the affidavit states. When asked about Desiree again, Nickalas told detectives he helped her out of the bath and then put a towel over her head, to set her free for heaven, the affidavit states.

Nickalas repeatedly told detectives that he didn’t want Desiree or Nathaniel to live in the hell that he had to live in, according to the affidavit. When asked what that hell was, Nickalas replied “chores.”

On Jan. 22, 2018, the Hamilton County, Ohio Coroner’s office amended Desiree’s autopsy report to rule it asphyxia due to smothering and declared it a homicide. Nathaniel’s death was later amended to asphyxia due to smothering, and his death was also ruled a homicide, court records state.

Initially charged as a juvenile, Nickalas was found competent to stand trial and his case in Ripley County was waived to adult court. Indiana statute allows juveniles as young as age 12 to be tried in murder cases as adults.