JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A former Mississippi police officer was released Thursday on a $50,000 bond despite the protestations of the agency that arrested her for manslaughter in the death of her three-year-old daughter.
Former Long Beach officer Cassie Barker, 27, turned herself in to the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office Thursday afternoon. Barker’s lawyers reached an agreement with Hancock County Justice Court Judge Tommy Carver to set bail before Barker arrived.
Barker’s daughter was found unresponsive Friday after four hours in her mother’s Long Beach patrol car and pronounced dead at a hospital Friday. While officials spell the girl’s name as Cheyenn Hyer, her father spells it as Cheyenne.
Chief Deputy Don Bass described Carver’s decision and his decision to skip a hearing as “unbelievable” and “terrible.”
“We would have liked to have had a hearing on it and set a higher bond,” Bass told The Associated Press Thursday by phone. “We feel she’s a flight risk.”
Donald Rafferty, Barker’s lawyer, said his client will follow the judge’s order.
“We wish she had been released on her own recognizance,” Rafferty said by phone. “We look forward to our day in court and we’re going to see what we can do to defend Ms. Barker’s legal interests.”
Officials quote Barker as saying she fell asleep Friday while visiting the Kiln home of another officer, Sgt. Clark Ladner after their shift, as her daughter sat strapped in a child seat in the running patrol car. Officials said Barker was distraught and she was hospitalized following the toddler’s death, but was later released.
Bass has said that officials don’t plan to charge Ladner, who has said he didn’t know the girl was in the car. The Sun Herald reported he said he had taken a sleep aid and also fell asleep.
The Long Beach Board of Aldermen on Tuesday fired Barker and Ladner, saying they had violated city policies.
Sheriff’s Investigator Glenn Grannan said Wednesday that Barker left her daughter alone in a car at least once before, in nearby Gulfport in April 2015. Police responded and child welfare officials took temporary custody of the girl at the time.
Hancock County Coroner Jim Faulk said Wednesday that the state crime lab in Pearl has yet to complete an autopsy or determine what caused Cheyenn’s death. Officials suspect she died of overexposure to heat.
Rafferty said he hadn’t yet decided whether Barker would request a preliminary hearing, in which a judge would examine whether there’s enough evidence in the case to send it to a grand jury for possible indictment. Defendants often waive such hearings in Mississippi.
Grand juries in Hancock County typically meet in February and August, although District Attorney Joel Smith could call grand jurors back to consider the case earlier. Smith didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment.