By PETER KASPARI
Hillary Tyler reacts as the judge reads the jury’s findings MONDAY.The jury found Tyler guilty of second-degree murder in the death of her newborn son in a Fort Dodge Super 8 motel on Sept. 19, 2011. Tyler sits between her defense attorneys, Charles Kenville, at left and Joseph McCarville, with Webster County Attorney Ricki Osborn on the right.
Hillary Tyler was convicted in a Webster County District Courtroom Monday of murdering her newborn son.
The baby's body was found in a wastebasket at the Super 8 motel on Sept. 19, 2011.
Tyler, 32, of Mulall, Okla., was charged with first-degree murder in the baby's death; however, jurors found her guilty of the lesser charge of second-degree murder. The difference between the two charges involves whether the jury believed Tyler had a "specific intent" to kill the baby.
First-degree murder carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. Instead, Tyler now faces up to 50 years in prison. Sentencing is scheduled for April 12.
"I'm pleased with the jury's decision," said Webster County Attorney Ricki Osborn. "This has been a difficult case for all the parties involved."
Joseph McCarville, one of Tyler's attorneys, said the jury's decision was an emotional one for Tyler and her family.
"It's just very sad," he said.
Jurors, who briefly began deliberations Friday, spent about six and a half hours deciding on their verdict, which was announced around 3:30 p.m. Monday.
The baby's father, Rodney Cyphers, and his family declined to comment after the verdict was read.
Tyler's family also declined to comment.
Tyler and Cyphers, who is also from Mulhall, Okla., had been working in Fort Dodge when Tyler - who had kept her pregnancy a secret - delivered the baby alone in a motel room she had rented on Sept. 19, 2011.
After the baby's body was discovered the next day, Tyler initially denied he was born alive. But she later told Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation officers that the baby had cried and moved. She said, in a videotaped interview, she got scared after he began crying and she placed him face down in a bathtub. She said she put water in the tub and walked away.
In a phone call to Cyphers, she repeated what she had told investigators - that the baby cried, she got scared and put him in the bathtub.
Tyler told investigators she believed Cyphers didn't want children and wasn't sure what his reaction would be if she admitted she was pregnant.
Cyphers testified Tyler repeatedly denied being pregnant and said her weight gain was due to polyps in her uterus. He said she texted him on Sept. 19, 2011, saying she was going to a clinic in Ames to have the polyps removed and not to worry about her.
Assistant State Medical Examiner Jonathan Thompson ruled the baby's death was a homicide, caused by drowning.
A pediatric forensic pathologist, the only witness for the defense, disagreed with Thompson's determination, saying it appeared the baby could have been stillborn.
Other witnesses included Webster County Medical Examiner Dan Cole and several law enforcement officials, who testified about the crime scene and subsequent investigation.