Tyler sentencing offers glimpse of her past
Convicted murderer Hillary Tyler’s mother admitted in court Friday that her daughter had been on probation for larceny.
It was also revealed that Tyler, 32, was pregnant with another man’s baby when she met Rodney Cyphers, the father of the baby she was convicted in February of killing.
Tyler, who was sentenced in Webster County District Court to a maximum of 50 years in prison Friday, had an abortion shortly after she met Cyphers, prosecutors said.
Pam Tyler wanted to read a letter in support for her daughter. She was cross-examined by Assistant Iowa Attorney General Laura Roan, who asked her about her daughter’s past probation and previous abortion.
“Was she not prosecuted for larceny and charged with embezzling money from the former partner at her father’s law firm?” Roan asked.
“It was a little over $2,000,” Pam Tyler said.
“And at the time she met Rodney, wasn’t she pregnant with another man’s child and had an abortion?” Roan asked.
“At one time she told me that she miscarried,” Tyler said.
Hillary Tyler was convicted earlier this year in Webster County District Court of drowning her newborn baby boy in the bathtub of a Fort Dodge motel room on Sept. 19, 2011.
She did not testify at her trial and she declined an opportunity to address the court Friday.
Prior to Roan’s questioning, Pam Tyler claimed the baby was stillborn and her daughter did not kill the child. She also accused Cyphers of being violent with her daughter and said he was “very agitated” whenever Pam Tyler tried calling him.
She said her daughter didn’t tell the truth during her interrogation.
“Hillary is very submissive, and she would say whatever it would take to get out of that situation,” she said.
Pam Tyler said her daughter is innocent.
“Hillary should not be sentenced to 50 years in prison for the death of her stillborn baby,” she said.
Speaking directly to Hillary Tyler, her mother said, “We all love you and we’re all going to see you home.”
Four letters in support of Tyler, three from family members and one from local social worker Michelle Johnson, had previously been emailed to the court.
Judge Thomas Bice said in none of those letters does Tyler take responsibility for the crime of which she was convicted.
“Those that have made comments to the court basically blame Rodney, the police, the DCI (Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation), the prosecutor, the judge, the medical examiner, the jury and even our court attendant for your situation,” he said. “Not once in the letters that are written is there the least bit of acknowledgement for what happened. You blame everybody but yourself, and we can’t buy into that.”
Bice also took issue with Pam Tyler’s claim that the baby was stillborn.
“That is not the fact of the matter,” Bice said. “The instructions were given to the jury and they decided beyond a reasonable doubt that there was a live birth.”
He added that letters from Tyler’s family described her as someone who always thought of others before herself and who would never do anything to hurt anyone.
“I wonder what Baby Boy Tyler would say to those statements,” Bice said.
The case was a difficult one for both sides.
“In 41 years of being involved in the legal profession, this case, beyond all others, screams of heartache,” Bice said, “heartache not only for the family of Rodney Cyphers, but for your family as well.”
The judge told Tyler that her situation didn’t need to end in murder.
“It became very clear to me that there were viable alternatives that were available to you,” he said. “We have laws in the state of Iowa that provide for safe houses. We have people on waiting lists who are waiting, begging to adopt children. Because of the incredibly poor choices that you made, those options did not come to fruition.”
“I too believe in the justice system,” Bice added, referencing Pam Tyler’s statement about her own belief in the judicial system. “And I believe justice here has been done.”
Cyphers also made a brief statement to Tyler.
“The only thing I want to know is why,” he said. “You only had to say three words to me; ‘Rodney, I’m pregnant.'”
Had he known she was pregnant, Cyphers said he would have accepted the baby.
“You know how much I loved you and cared for you,” he said. “As crazy as it may sound, I miss you.”
He added that the lives of everybody in the family were impacted by Tyler’s actions.
“I feel sorry for your family. I feel sorry for my family,” he said. “But most of all, I feel sorry for my son.”
Cyphers’ mother, Malinda Cyphers, read a prepared statement to Tyler. She described the day she learned of the crime as “a horrible nightmare.”
“You got to see our grandson and because of you we never had that privilege,” Malinda Cyphers said. “We only wish that we could have heard him cry.”
Tyler must serve 35 years of her sentence before she is eligible for parole. She was also ordered to pay $150,000 in restitution to the Cyphers family.
Bice issued a no-contact order between Tyler and the Cyphers family for the next five years. The order can be reissued after it expires.
Tyler has 60 days to appeal her conviction to the Iowa Supreme Court.