Jury Issues Verdict In Mills Aggravated Child Abuse Case
It was a case about a boy going through hell — and his parents put him through that hell.
So said assistant Natrona County District Attorney Jared Holbrook to begin his closing arguments in a child abuse trial Thursday afternoon.
The case involved a 12-year-old boy who was forced to run up and down the stairs to the point of exhaustion.
And 12 Natrona County jurors handed his father a guilty verdict at roughly 7 p.m. Thursday evening.
Specifically, jurors convicted Ryan Hilyard of aggravated child abuse and child abuse. After the verdict was handed down, Natrona County District Court Judge Catherine Wilking revoked Hilyard's bond. He was taken into custody.
Earlier this year, Hilyard's wife, Sarah Hilyard, pleaded no contest to attempted second-degree murder and child abuse in connection to the incident.
Just prior to closing arguments, jurors were shown video a Mills Police detective discovered on Sarah Hilyard's phone. In the video, a bawling young boy is seen begging for food and water. Sarah Hilyard can be heard off-screen taunting the boy. She remarks about the boy's "f----d up little brain."
At issue during closing arguments was Ryan Hilyard's role during the abuse. Specifically, Ryan Hilyard's attorney told jurors that Ryan Hilyard worked long hours. Ryan Hilyard testified that he worked 80 to 90 hours each week and was at work when Sarah Hilyard called him to say his son needed to go to the hospital.
"What doesn't make sense is the defendant not knowing what's going on," Holbrook said. "What does make sense is that he was involved the whole time."
Ryan Hilyard testified that his son appeared to have fallen down the stairs on August 2, 2020. His son wasn't taken to the hospital until August 6, 2020.
But in video shown to jurors during closing arguments, Ryan Hilyard is seen telling a Mills Police officer that he was aware of his son having a black eye.
During his closing arguments, Holbrook described to jurors a 12-year-old who suffered extensive injuries on August 2, 2020. The boy wasn't taken to the hospital until August 6. A doctor told investigators that had the boy not been brought in, he likely would have died.
A doctor in the case told jurors that the boy had 40 bruises all over his body in various stages of healing. They covered the length of his body.
"When he was knocked out, (Ryan Hilyard) dragged him to his room and left him there," Holbrook said.
Eventually, the child's sibling told investigators that he was forced to take part in his brother's abuse. He did so out of fear that the same would happen to him if he did not. Today, he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Ryan Hilyard's defense attorney, Rob Oldham, made the argument to jurors that Ryan Hilyard did not know about the abuse his son suffered, calling the ensuing investigation a "witch hunt."
Twelve Natrona County jurors disagreed.