A 23-year-old Indiana man will be spending the next 60 years behind bars following his confession that he abducted, sexually assaulted and murdered a toddler last March, PEOPLE confirms.
Under a deal with the prosecution, Kyle Parker pleaded guilty earlier this month to single counts of kidnapping and murder in the death of 1-year-old Shaylyn Ammerman, court records show.
He was sentenced Monday in an emotionally charged court appearance.
Prosecutors, in an unusual decision, reportedly argued at the hearing that their case would not be foolproof before a jury and they urged the judge to accept Parker’s plea. The state had earlier sought life without parole, according to the Bloomington Herald-Times.
As part of the his deal, Parker’s additional charges of rape, child molesting, strangulation, aggravated battery, obstruction of justice, failure to report a dead body and unlawful disposition of a body were dismissed, court documents confirm.
He will not have to register as a sex offender upon his release, and he was not convicted of a sexual crime, despite admitting to investigators that he raped Shaylyn in the front seat of his car before killing her with his bare hands.
Court officials tell PEOPLE that Parker could serve just 45 years of his sentence under state law. With good behavior, he could be released after he turns 68.
Prosecutors, Parker’s defense attorney and Shaylyn’s relatives could not be reached Tuesday for comment. Her parents, Justin Ammerman and Jessica Stewart, both reportedly spoke at Parker’s hearing.
“When I heard all the horrible things he did to my precious girl, I wanted to die, too,” Ammerman said, according to the Indianapolis Star.
Shaylyn’s family has said she was an effervescent child who loved to dance, the Star reports.
“You took my loving, sweet and beautiful daughter away from me, her brother, her dad and everyone who loves her,” Stewart told Parker on the stand, according to RTV6. “I hope you live with your guilt and it torments you for the rest of your life.”
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She told RTV6 she thought often of her daughter’s death.
“Every day I have images in my head of what that night was like for her, and there is nothing that he could say or do to ever make me forgive him,” she said.
Parker did not speak in court.
Snatched from Her Crib
Shaylyn’s body was found on March 24, 2016, next to the White River in a remote section of Gosport, Indiana. She was last seen inside her father’s home two days prior.
Investigators discovered that Parker had taken Shaylyn from her crib and then drove the child to an isolated area, where he sexually assaulted her. He told police he suffocated her with a blanket he’d kept in his car.
Court records show that he’d been invited to Shaylyn’s father’s home the night she vanished. According to police, Parker and Shaylyn’s uncle, Adam Ammerman, had recently become friends; and Adam and Justin, Shaylyn’s father, share a home.
Parker and Adam had been drinking alcohol and watching a movie the night Shaylyn disappeared, according to court records.
Adam told police he fell asleep but awoke to the sound of the front door closing. He told detectives he peered out his bedroom window and watched Parker head for his car while “carrying something.”
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Prosecutors say Parker initially lied about his involvement in Shaylyn’s death, telling them it was Adam who killed her and then asked him to help dispose of the child’s body.
Parker said he’d agreed to help his friend, and he later led police to the girl’s remains.
When confronted with Adam’s positive polygraph results, however, Parker began to cooperate and confessed that he acted alone. His stepfather also told police that Parker had admitted to murdering Shaylyn to him, according to documents.
The results of Shaylyn’s autopsy revealed “injuries consistent with a violent sexual assault,” according to court records. Parker said he used bleach to try to clean evidence from Shaylyn’s body.
The doctor who performed her autopsy later characterized her rape and strangulation as “the worst case of sexual trauma” she had ever seen, according to court documents.
‘Let This Be Done’
Prosecutors felt that the case against Parker was too weak to ensure a conviction at trial, according to the Herald-Times.
Their decision to seek a plea deal was met with some controversy in the community, according to local news outlets, though they said in court it was the best available option given the evidence.
For instance, Parker’s DNA was not found at the site where Shaylyn’s body was recovered, and investigators could find no signs of bleach, despite Parker’s claims, according to RTV6.
Some of the witnesses also had “impeachable offenses,” including prior criminal allegations or convictions, according to the Indianapolis Star.
Prosecutors reportedly said in court that a second person, in addition to Parker, failed a polygraph test during the course of the investigation. That person was not named.
Speaking at the sentencing, Owen County Don VanDerMoere said the deal is “not what I want, but it’s the right thing that has to be done,” according to RTV6.
He called Parker’s six-decade term “functionally a life sentence,” the Herald-Times reports.
“Blame me that we don’t have evidence. Blame me that we’ve got witnesses that are impeachable. But leave that family alone,” VanDerMoere said, according to the station. “Send him [Parker] for 60 years to the department of corrections and let this be done.”
The judge agreed, according to the Herald-Times.
Describing Parker as “pure evil,” she said, “A not-guilty verdict or a hung jury are clearly possible, and the thought of you not being locked up is not acceptable. It’s clear to me, Mr. Parker, you have no moral compass or sense of decency.”