Tyler’s fate now in jury’s hands

Jurors deciding the fate of Hillary Tyler, charged with first-degree murder in the death of her baby, will resume their deliberations on Monday.

Tyler, 32, of Mulhall, Okla., is accused of delivering a baby boy on Sept. 19, 2011, in a Fort Dodge Super 8 motel room then drowning the baby in the bathtub.

Defense attorney Joe McCarville, in his closing argument in Webster County District Court Friday, described Tyler as a “scared, lonely girl” who was detained by law enforcement officials without medical care, food or water and without family support.

He said officers who were conducting the interview “don’t get her medical care until she tells them what they want to hear.” The police didn’t trap her, he said, “but she felt trapped.”

In her closing argument Friday afternoon, Assistant Iowa Attorney General Laura Roan said Tyler “was not the victim here. That 32-year-old woman is no victim.”

Roan said Tyler’s baby was the victim and that Tyler’s “circumstances were a result of her decisions.” She said if Tyler had intended to walk out of the Super 8 with a live baby, “she would have checked into a hospital and not a hotel.”

During a videotaped interview with Division of Criminal Investigation agents, Tyler at first said the baby didn’t cry or move, but later said he cried and moved before she put him in the bathtub, put a few inches of water into the tub and walked away.

McCarville said that except for Tyler’s statement to agents, which she repeated in a telephone call to Rodney Cyphers, the baby’s father, there was no evidence that a crime was committed or that Tyler put the baby in the tub.

He also told jurors that part of what Tyler told investigators is true, but most of it should be disregarded.

“Almost everything she tells them can be confirmed,” he said. “But the agents questioning her simply will not accept what she’s telling them.”

He said Tyler was suffering from birth-related injuries and needed medical attention, but officers never took her to the hospital during the questioning.

The defense called as its sole witness Dr. Janice Ophoven, a pediatric forensic pathologist, who said she examined reports, including Associate Iowa Medical Examiner Dr. Jon Thompson’s autopsy report on the baby, and she could not determine a cause or manner of death.

Thompson said Wednesday he concluded the cause of death was homicide and the manner of death was drowning. Thompson said he based his findings, in part, on Tyler’s statement to investigators that the baby cried and moved before she placed him face down in the bathtub.

Ophoven said she did not consider Tyler’s statement in making her report. As a consultant in private practice, Ophoven is paid $400 an hour to review medical reports and draw conclusions as to their accuracy.

She said she believed the baby might have been stillborn and pointed to an area of discoloration on his right thigh as being “maceration,” something that would only occur while the baby was still in the uterus.

Her conclusion directly contradicted those of Thompson, who conducted the autopsy, and Dr. Daniel Cole, the Webster County medical examiner, who was called by officers to the hotel room to prepare the baby for transportation to the state medical examiner’s office.

Although defense attorneys indicated they might call a rebuttal witness after Friday’s lunch break, they rested their case without doing so.

Tyler did not take the stand.

Deliberations are scheduled to resume at 9 a.m. Monday. In this case, the jury could find Tyler either not guilty or guilty of first-degree murder, or they could find her guilty of a lesser offense, ranging from second-degree murder to assault.