Father of dead 3-year-old says her death could have been prevented
Former Long Beach Police Officer Cassie Barker, accused in the alleged hot-car death of her 3-year-old daughter, pleaded not guilty to manslaughter Tuesday.
Barker, dressed in slacks and a green striped shirt with her hair in a bun, would not comment before, during or after her court hearing Tuesday.
Barker’s attorney, George Blair, argued for a preliminary hearing, but prosecutor Olin Anderson said the former cop was not entitled to one because she is already out of jail on bond.
Justice Court Judge Tommy Carver agreed. He ruled there was enough evidence in the manslaughter case to automatically send the case to a grand jury to review for an indictment. Carver had previously set Barker's bond at $50,000. She has been free since she her Oct. 6 surrender.
Barker is accused in the Sept. 30 death of her daughter, Cheyenne Hyer. She's accused of leaving her daughter alone in the back of her patrol car for nearly five hours, court records show.
Barker had gotten off of work in Long Beach at 6 a.m. On Sept. 30, picked up her daughter at her babysitter's house and then stopped by the home of her then supervisor, Sgt. Clark Ladner, to repotedly discuss a work-related matter.
She told authorities she fell asleep and found her daughter unresponsive in car that had been left running with the air running, but with the thermostat moved closer to the heat setting. The windows had been left rolled up and Cheyenne was strapped in a car seat.
According to Hancock County sheriff's investigator's, Cheyenne's body temperature was 107 degrees when she arrived at Hancock County Medical Center more than an hour after paramedics first responded to the scene. A preliminary autopsy showed her death was due to extreme heat.
Ryan Hyer, Cheyenne's father, has been distraught since he learned of his daughter's death. He drove hundreds of miles from Jacksonville to attend Tuesday's hearing.
"I mean, she can leave town with no restrictions. That's bull----. Last year, she was arrested. Now, my daughter is dead and she's (Barker) not even behind bars. That is ridiculous,” Hyer said.
"If it was me, you or anybody else, we would be in jail. For her to say she's not guilty, it's a joke. My daughter is gone."
Hyer brought with him 200 stickers that call for “Justice for Cheyenne” with a picture of her emblazoned on them.
Hyer also hired an attorney who has filed a notice of intent to sue the Long Beach Police Department and the state Child Protective Service for more than $2 million for negligence related to his daughter's death.
Hyer arrived Monday afternoon and spent the evening going by the house he once shared with Barker and his daughter. He said he talked to a neighbor and peered through the windows, remembering times there before he and Barker broke up and he was separated from his daughter when she was 2.
Hyer said he has been struggling with depression since he learned his daughter had already suffered once at the hands of her mother.
He is angry no one informed him when Barker first came under investigation by DHS after an April 6, 2015, incident in Gulfport.
In that case, Gulfport police responded after a passerby reported a child left alone in the back of a car outside an AT&T store on U.S. 49 in Gulfport. Cheyenne survived that incident when Gulfport police broke a window and pulled her to safety.
However, Barker was never prosecuted in the case, though she temporarily lost custody of Cheyenne for two days. She later had to attend parenting classes but nothing else came of the case. Hyer said he is furious no one ever called to report the incident to him.
He said he plans to use any money derived from the wrongful death lawsuit to help the families of others who have lost their children to child abuse.
“No parent should have to suffer like this,” he said. “No one. I'm very anxious about this whole thing. It's very upsetting.”