3-year-old who died alone in mother’s police car described as ‘funniest, happiest little girl ever’

The father of a 3-year-old Mississippi girl who died Friday after being left unattended in a patrol car by her police officer mother described his daughter as the "funniest, happiest little girl ever."

Ryan Hyer told the Clarion-Ledger Monday that his world was upended when he learned that his daughter, Cheyenne Hyer, was dead.

"I lost all feeling," Hyer told the newspaper. "I couldn't speak, I couldn't breathe, then I was flat-out crying. After that, I just was angry, and I went in the backyard and started beating up the shed."

Cheyenne was pronounced dead Friday at a hospital after she was found unresponsive in the patrol car, which her mother, Cassie Barker, left running as she visited fellow Long Beach police Officer Clark Ladner inside his home. Investigators estimate that the girl was left alone in the car for about four hours.

Both officers have been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation, the Clarion-Ledger reported. No charges had been filed as of Tuesday morning, but Hancock County Chief Deputy Don Bass said that, if charges are filed, he expects Barker to be charged with negligent homicide.

Barker's Facebook account is filled with pictures of herself in uniform, as well as photos taken with her daughter. Her profile picture shows her, in uniform, sitting in a car with Cheyenne.

The air conditioner in the patrol car was running when first responders got to the scene, Bass told the newspaper. It was unclear if it was on the entire four hours, and the chief deputy said there was “no excuse” for leaving a child alone in a vehicle.

"There's no logical reason to do that," Bass told the Clarion-Ledger. "It's not an accident. She left the child in the car."

The newspaper reported that Barker was previously involved in an incident in which the Department of Human Services became involved, and that Barker had to work with the agency to get Cheyenne back. Details of that incident have not been revealed.

Barker, a police officer since September 2014, was also placed on a one-week suspension in May 2015 and had a 90-day probation period extended, the newspaper reported. Details of what led to that disciplinary action were not immediately available.

Hyer said that those who knew Cheyenne called her "Shy" for short, but that she was far from shy. He told the Clarion-Ledger that the girl with big blue eyes and curly blond hair loved horses and was generous with her hugs.

The grieving father said he went to a funeral home in an effort to make his daughter’s funeral arrangements.

"When it came time to pick out a casket, I couldn't do it. I couldn't do it," he said.

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