Former Long Beach police officer Cassie Barker tearfully admitted Monday she was having sex with her supervisor while her 3-year-old daughter was dying of heat exposure in her patrol car.
Originally indicted on a charge of second-degree murder, the 29-year-old pleaded guilty Monday to a reduced charge of manslaughter in a plea deal with the state.
The state recommended a 20-year sentence, but Circuit Judge Larry Bourgeois said he wants more time to consider it. He set sentencing for April 1 in Bay St. Louis.
“I don’t know what I could ever do to you that could be worse than what you’ve already experienced ... You will forever be entombed in a prison of your own mind,” he said to Barker.
Cheyenne Hyer died on Sept. 30, 2016, after her mother left her strapped into a car seat for four hours while Barker was with her then-supervisor, Clark Ladner, at his home on Standard-Dedeaux Road. The car was running with the air-conditioner on, but it was not blowing cold air.
When Barker got back to the car, Cheyenne was already unresponsive.
The heat index that day reached over 100 degrees. When Cheyenne was found, authorities said her body temperature was 107 degrees.
After the death, then-Long Beach Police Chief Wayne McDowell fired Barker and Ladner.
Barker said she had gone to her supervisor’s house after the two of them got off work and said they eventually fell asleep. She had been working two jobs at the time.
Cheyenne’s father, Ryan Hyer, has been outraged over his daughter’s death.
“Every time I close my eyes, I picture her suffering and then I picture her laying in this coffin,” he said. “I still see her smiling and laughing in my head and I would assume that smile and laughter turned to pain and suffering in that instance. It’s an image I don’t want to have, but it’s one I can’t get rid of.”
He also was surprised when he learned it wasn’t the first time Barker had left their child unattended in a car. On an earlier occasion, Barker left Cheyenne in the car while she went into a store. A passerby saw the child in the car and called Gulfport police.
Hyer has filed a lawsuit against the Long Beach Police Department and Mississippi Child Protection Services for the wrongful death of his child.
He said no one informed him the first time his daughter was found in a car alone. He believes child protective services should have taken action. The police department placed Barker on administrative leave.
“As a parent, you are supposed to protect your child, and Cheyenne is gone because her mother didn’t protect her, not once but twice,” Hyer said. “May God have mercy on her soul.”
When Long Beach police officers learned of the events surrounding Cheyenne’s death, they expressed outrage and sadness over the actions of their former colleagues.
Barker has remained free on bond since her initial arrest after Cheyenne’s death.
Barker — dressed in yoga pants and a T-shirt with her hair up in a bun — was taken into custody after entering her guilty plea Monday.
Since her daughter’s death, a psychological exam showed Barker suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder attributed to childhood trauma and her daughter’s death. She was found competent to stand trial.