'Innocent Angel': Heartbroken Dad Mourns Toddler Who Died in Hot Car While Cop Mom Had Sex with Boss
Cassie Barker was sentenced to 20 years for manslaughter after the heatstroke death of her 3-year-old daughter in 2016
Ryan Hyer hadn’t seen his 3-year-old daughter Cheyenne in months but trusted she was in good hands with her mother, who was a cop.
Then came the officers who alerted him that his daughter was dead.
“When it was time to view her fragile little body, I kept telling myself to be strong,” Hyer said in court Monday, where the child’s mother, Cassie Barker, was sentenced for manslaughter after leaving the child in a hot car for four hours while she had sex with a supervisor, reports the Biloxi Sun Herald.
“However, I broke when I saw my beautiful, sweet, funny and innocent angel laying in that casket,” Hyer said. “I just wanted to pick her up and hold her and tell her everything was going to be OK, Daddy has you.”
“I keep asking myself, ‘Will this give me closure?’ Ryan said to the judge during Barker’s sentencing. “I could blame so many people, but the reality is that Cheyenne’s mother … took an oath to protect and serve the community [and] 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,” he said. “My life has been a complete hell without Cheyenne. This will never get easier.”
Barker was sentenced Monday to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty earlier this month to culpable negligence manslaughter, reports CBS affiliate WLOX and the Sun Herald. The former Long Beach police officer accepted the plea agreement to a lesser charge after initially being indicted for second-degree murder, the Sun Herald reported.
Prosecutors said the child died Sept. 30, 2016, after Barker went to the home of her supervisor, Clark Ladner, to talk to him at the end of her shift and ended up having sex with him, WLOX reported.
She left the car running with the air conditioner on to combat the 100-degree temperature, but the vent wasn’t blowing cold air, CBS News reported.
Barker fell asleep in Ladner’s home and left her daughter strapped in her car seat for four hours in the sweltering heat.
The child was unresponsive when Barker finally returned to her car. The girl was rushed to a nearby hospital, where officials say her body temperature had topped 107 degrees, CBS News reported. The cause of death was heatstroke.
Barker had left the child unattended in a car on a previous occasion, authorities said, CBS News reported. Barker had left the child in her car when she went into a store, prompting a passerby to call Gulfport police, the Sun Herald reported.
“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.”
In her appeal to Judge Larry Bourgeois, Barker took responsibility and said, “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. The last time I spoke to him [Hyer] was in July ,” she said. “He doesn’t even know what her favorite toys are.”
The couple had split a year before the child died, with Hyer moving from Mississippi to Jacksonville, Florida, after he caught Barker cheating on him with her supervisor, Hyer said, according to the Sun Herald.
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He left their daughter behind with her mother and offered Barker money to bring the child for a visit, but she never did, he said. “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.”
Barker and Ladner were fired from the police force after the child’s death, the Sun Herald reported.
Prior to her sentencing, it was revealed that Barker is expecting a second child, the newspaper first reported exclusively.
Her attorney, Damian Holcomb, told the outlet she plans to put the baby up for adoption after she gives birth, which he also confirmed to PEOPLE.
PEOPLE was unable to immediately reach Holcomb Wednesday to ask about the child’s paternity.
“We were told there are a million people who have babies while they are in prison,” he told the Sun Herald. “The way it works is once you are medically cleared you go back to whatever prison you are supposed to go back to.”
While Barker “has accepted responsibility” for her daughter’s death, Holcomb tells PEOPLE, “she hasn’t been the same since this happened. It’s a very sad case. Her life will never be the same again.”
If you suspect child abuse, call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child or 1-800-422-4453, or go to www.childhelp.org. All calls are toll-free and confidential. The hotline is available 24/7 in more than 170 languages.