It’s an absolutely heartbreaking story out of Mississippi. A former police officer is most likely going to spend the next 20 years of her life in prison thinking about how she’s responsible for the death of her daughter.
Cassie Barker is a former Mississippi Gulf Coast police officer. Monday, she pleaded guilty to manslaughter in a plea bargain after being indicted on a second-degree murder charge.
Prosecutors have recommended the 29-year-old spend 20 years in prison for having sex with her supervisor then falling asleep while her 3-year-old daughter was dying inside an overheated patrol car.
Harrison County Circuit Judge Larry Bourgeois said he wanted more time to consider the case, and her sentencing will be handed down on April 1.
Cheyenne Hyer, her daughter, died Sept. 30, 2016. That was when police say her mother left her strapped in a car seat for four hours while Barker was with her then-supervisor at his home.
The patrol car was running with the air conditioner turned on, but it wasn’t blowing cold air. When her mother came back, the girl was unresponsive. When they got to the hospital, the girl’s body temperature was 107 degrees.
“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,” Bourgeois said to Barker.
Barker, who had been free on bail, was arrested Monday after pleading guilty.
Barker was working two jobs at the time. She originally claimed she had been talking to Clark Ladner at his house early on a hot weekday morning when she fell asleep.
Days later, she and Ladner were both fired by the city of Long Beach.
Ladner told officials he had no idea the girl was in the car. He has been criminally charged. According to reports, Ladner had told officials he had taken a sleep aid and had also fallen asleep.
It wasn’t the first time the mother had left her daughter alone in a car. It happened in nearby Gulfport back in April of 2015. Police were called and child welfare officials took temporary custody of the girl.
Barker was suspended from the department without pay for a week, but the girl’s father, Ryan Hyer, said he was never told about it.
“Every time I close my eyes, I picture her suffering and then I picture her laying in this coffin,” Ryan Hyer said Monday. “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.”
The father has filed suit against the Long Beach Police Department and the Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services for the wrongful death of his child. He said stronger actions should have been taken after the first incident.
“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.
After the girl’s death, the mother was hospitalized for what was described as shock. And although a psych exam showed that she suffers from post-traumatic stress from childhood trauma and her daughter’s death, she was found competent to stand trial.
The father launched a GoFundMe page for Cheyenne’s burial, which raised more than $8,000.
“I’m not one to ask for help, but I want my little girl home and laid to rest,” Ryan Hyer wrote. “She was a wonderful, sweet, beautiful girl. Full of life and excitement and cannot believe she’s gone. She did not deserve this. Please help me give her the best and, most importantly, proper burial that she deserves so she can be at peace and hopefully give me peace.”