A Chicago man convicted of murdering his 9-year-old daughter was sentenced Friday to the maximum penalty of 60 years in prison.
Dressed in a yellow prison jumpsuit, Richard Lyons sat quietly at a table with his lawyers. When the judge asked him if he had anything to say before the sentence was delivered, Lyons said, "No, your honor."
In the summer of 2008, Lyons told officers he found the bloody body of his daughter, Mya, in an alley near his home in the 8400 block of South Gilbert Court. Lyons rushed her to the hospital to try and save her life.
Two years later he was arrested, and it took jurors less than two hours in January to find him guilty of first-degree murder.
Mya's weeping mother, Ericka Barnes, left the courtroom Friday surrounded by friends and relatives after giving a wrenching court statement about her daughter's brutal death at the hands of her father.
In a voice choked with emotion, she said she "would give anything to change places with her daughter." She broke down as she declared, "I will always feel guilt that I wasn't there when she needed me the most."
Prosecutors said Lyons beat his daughter with a lock box and strangled her in a moment of rage. To throw police off, prosecutors said he repeatedly stabbed the girl with a large knife and dumped her body in a vacant lot near his home.
Prosecutors said Lyons then pretended to discover her body so he would be seen as a hero.
Lyons' attorneys contended that a would-be burglar killed Mya and that she was out after her curfew when she stumbled upon a man who was trying to break into a basement. The man strangled the girl and repeatedly stabbed her, they said, arguing that prosecutors have no motive, eyewitnesses or direct physical evidence proving Lyons killed his daughter.
"There's still a killer out there," Lyons' relatives said after Friday's sentencing, pointing out he had no criminal record and worked a steady job helping people by transporting patients for hospital radiology departments.
Blood splatter found on Lyons' white tennis shoes was the only physical evidence tying him to the murder.
"The blood spatter was key. There were other evidence, but that was key," Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez said. "We are not quite sure what the motive was, but this is a horrendous crime to think that a father could do that."
Hundreds attended Mya's funeral. The service included a personal note from then-presidential candidate Barack Obama.