A Chicago man convicted in the 2008 stabbing death of his 9-year-old daughter from Addison was sentenced Friday to 60 years in prison.
Richard Lyons, 44, must complete the entire sentence -- the maximum allowed under the law.
Prosecutors said they were pleased with Cook County Judge Vincent Gaughan's sentence given the brutality of Lyons' crimes against his daughter, Mya. The sentence gives Lyons credit for three years served while waiting for trial since his arrest.
"What makes this murder particularly heinous," said Cook County Assistant State's Attorney Fabio Valentini, "is that it was committed against a young child by her father," a man she should have been able to trust and depend upon.
Mya Lyons' body was found in an overgrown alley near her father's home on Chicago's South Side early on July 15, 2008. Mya, who lived with her mother and younger brother in Addison, had completed third grade at G. Stanley Hall in Glendale Heights and was visiting her father at the time of her death.
In her victim impact statement, Mya's mother Ericka Barnes described her only daughter as a smiling girl well-liked by the neighborhood kids and devoted to her younger brother Omary, whose preschool bus she met every day.
"I would give anything to change places with Mya, take away the terror, pain and, I'm sure, the disbelief she suffered that night," Barnes said. "For the rest of my life I will feel the guilt that I wasn't there when she needed me most."
Richard Lyons claimed Mya wandered away from his Gilbert Avenue home sometime around 11 p.m. July 14. He told authorities he drove his van around the neighborhood searching for his daughter. After finding her in the weed-choked alley, he placed her in his van and drove to a nearby hospital.
Lyons' attorneys theorized that Mya surprised a burglar who killed her and dumped her body.
Circumstantial evidence dominated the prosecution's case, which depended heavily upon testimony from a blood splatter expert. The expert testified he found traces of Mya Lyons' blood on the van's window shade, arm rest and dashboard, suggesting Mya had been stabbed inside the vehicle.
Cook County Assistant State's Attorney Maria McCarthy agreed the blood splatter evidence was crucial. However, she said prosecutors don't consider evidence in isolation and the splatter was part of a larger evidentiary puzzle that, when complete, pointed to Lyons as the killer.
Although prosecutors never offered a motive, McCarthy theorized during closing arguments that Lyons became infuriated with the youngster for some reason, smashed her head against a lock box at the back of his house, then pulled her into the van where he stabbed her to death.
Lyons' uncle Derrick Lyons, of Chicago, said the family is "heartbroken" by the sentence and what they see as a rush to judgment.
"I know my nephew is innocent," he said. "I know there's a killer out there."
Barnes, who called Richard Lyons a "coward and a psychopath who should never be allowed out," did not speak after the sentencing.
However, Estella Bradley, Mya Lyons' maternal grandmother, said the sentence gave her and her family a sense of peace.
"I have forgiven Richard," she said, "but everybody has to answer to God."
"You will reap what you sow," she said.