MCLEAN COUNTY (HOI) -- Two months after Cynthia Baker was found guilty of murdering 8-year-old Rica Rountree the child's father pleaded not guilty to charges in connection to her death.
Richard Rountree, who is being represented by a public defender, pleaded not guilty to endangering life or health of someone under the age of 18 on Friday.
Appearing in person Rountree was escorted in my McLean County Sheriffs for his less than two-minute arraignment.
Rica's mother Antionetta Rountree was present during her ex-husband's court appearance.
"I don't know him and it's just like even being with him for 8 years it's like looking at a stranger. I don't know him. I don't know these capabilities of him," she said.
The mother of 5 has high hopes for the outcome of the situation.
"I'm hoping that he eventually will plead guilty, I am hoping that the next court date is the last court date because me and kids don't need to go through this and we have this whole thing with Cindy and we wouldn't even be here if he would've just given my daughter to me," she said.
During Cynthia Baker's murder trial in late 2019 prosecutors showed text messages between her and Richard Rountree that showed him asking her, "Would life be better without Rica."
"The why is going to go with Cindy and Richard and I don't think I'll ever know and I think it's something that I'm comfortable with not knowing because even if I did know why it's not going to change the fact that my daughter is gone behind it," Antionetta Rountree said.
The child's mother is planning a funeral for the little girl that died almost a year ago as well as a candlelight vigil at the home Rica lived in with Baker and her dad.
"We're going to do it at their address because I want an opportunity to free my baby's soul and bring peace to that property and pray over it. Just an opportunity to free my baby from the torture that she withstood there," she said.
The vigil will be on Sunday, Jan. 26. In front of 407 Stan Hope Ln, Normal, Il.