Biloxi, MS – A former police officer was sentenced to 20 years in prison on Monday for causing the death of her toddler, whom she had left in a hot patrol car while she had sex with her police supervisor.
Cheyenne Hyer, 3, died on Sept. 30, 2016 after her mother, former Long Beach Police Officer Cassie Barker, left the toddler in her police car after a 12-hour shift at the police department, the Sun Herald reported.
Barker, now 29, stopped to visit her then-police supervisor Clark Ladner after work, and left Cheyenne strapped into a car seat in her vehicle parked out front.
Police said all of the windows were up and the air conditioning was on, but it was blowing warm air.
Barker initially told police that she had talked with Ladner and then fell asleep, but later admitted they had been having sex before she drifted off, the Sun Herald reported.
Ladner claimed he did not know that Cheyenne was in the car at the time.
It was four hours later before Barker returned to the vehicle and found her three year old unresponsive, KUTV reported.
The panicked mother began CPR, but the child had no pulse and a body temperature of 107 degrees when paramedics arrived moments later, according to the Sun Herald. The heat index that day was more than 100 degrees.
After Cheyenne’s death, her father learned it was not the first time Barker had left his daughter in a hot car, the Sun Herald reported.
Ryan Hyer said that a passerby who saw his daughter alone in the back of a patrol car in front of a Gulfport strip mall had called the Gulfport Police Department.
Hyer told the Sun Herald he was never notified of that incident or he would have done something. He said that when local authorities arrived at his house to tell him about what had happened to Cheyenne, he didn’t believe them.
“I thought it was mistake,” he said.
Hyer told the officers his daughter lived in Mississippi with her police officer mother who would surely keep her safe, according to the Sun Herald.
He said neither Long Beach police nor the Georgia Department of Human Services had notified him of the prior incident in Gulfport, despite the fact that Barker had been placed on administrative leave for a week as a result of that incident.
Hyer is suing both agencies for negligence, the Sun Herald reported.
Then-Long Beach Police Chief Wayne McDowell fired Barker and Ladner after Cheyenne died in the patrol car.
Barker was indicted for second-degree murder in her daughter’s death, but negotiated a plea deal with the state that allowed her to plead guilty to the reduced charge of manslaughter, according to the Sun Herald.
Prosecutors and Cheyenne’s father asked the judge to sentence Barker to 20 years, the maximum possible prison time for the manslaughter charge.
“I’ve blamed myself for everything… life has been a complete hell. There’s no sentence big enough that will ever bring her back to us,” a devastated Hyer told reporters outside the courthouse.
When Barker, who is pregnant again, entered her guilty plea in March, Judge Larry Bourgeois said he didn’t know what punishment “could be worse than what you have already experienced.”
Her attorney told the judge that the young mother had been a victim of neglect and abuse by her own parents, the Sun Herald reported.
“I can appreciate you loved the child, but you left the child — your own flesh and blood — in a car while you went into the air-conditioned house while you had sexual relations,” Bourgeois told Barker at her sentencing. “When you have a child and you bring this child into the world, it also brings responsibility. I don’t know how to put it other than you have failed in the responsibility of this child.”