Ryan Hyer has felt a range of emotions — from disbelief to grief to anger — since his 3-year-old daughter’s hot-car death in the back of her mother’s police patrol car.
But his emotions exploded into pure anger Monday after the child’s mother, ex-Long Beach Police Officer Cassie Barker, told a judge at her sentencing that she was the sole caregiver to their daughter, Cheyenne Hyer.
“I want to say that the only person I owe an apology to was my daughter because nobody else was in her life but me,” Barker said, her voice crumbling so much so at it times it was often hard to understand her pleas to a judge. “The last time I spoke to him (Hyer) was in July (2016),” she said. “He doesn’t even know what her favorite toys are.”
Barker, 29, was sentenced to 20 years in prison Monday for manslaughter in Cheyenne’s death on Sept. 30, 2016. She had left the child strapped in a car seat in the back of her patrol car while Barker went inside her supervisor’s home to have sex.
Four hours later, Cheyenne was dead of heatstroke. Her body temperature was 107 degrees.
Judge Larry Bourgeois sentenced Barker on Monday to 20 years in prison, the maximum for manslaughter, but he waited to hear from Barker and Hyer before rendering his judgment.
Hyer said the day he learned of Cheyenne’s death was the worst day of his life.
At first, he thought the officers who brought the news were mistaken, that Cheyenne was well-cared-for in Mississippi with her mother, who was cop. But they assured him it was Cheyenne who had died.
“When it was time to view her fragile little body, I kept telling myself to be strong,” he said. “However, I broke when I saw my beautiful, sweet, funny and innocent angel laying in that casket. I just wanted to pick her up and hold her and tell her everything was going to be OK, Daddy has you.”
In her statements, Barker admitted she alone was responsible for her daughter’s death. A friend of hers also said she had been in and out of hospital for treatment over the grief of her daughter since she died.
“I keep asking myself, ‘Will this give me closure?’ Ryan said to Bourgeois. “I could blame so many people, but the reality is that Cheyenne’s mother ... took an oath to protect and serve the community failed. She didn’t protect and serve the community or her child.
“I have blamed myself for every what if, should have and could have. My life has been a complete hell without Cheyenne. This will never get easier.”
Questions about child support
When Barker spoke to Bourgeois before her sentencing, she made it clear she was the lone caregiver for her child. Hyer admitted he hadn’t seen Cheyenne for a year before her death.
He said he left Mississippi to live in Jacksonville, Florida, a year before his daughter’s death because he had caught Barker cheating on him with her police supervisor.
He said left for Florida and left Cheyenne behind.
In addition, he admitted he never paid child support because “it never came up.”
He said he did offer to send Barker money to bring Cheyenne to him for a visit, but she never came.
“I’d send her money,” he said. “She’d call me to say we are coming up to Jacksonville and we want to come see you. We were supposed to have her that whole summer she passed.”