COOK COUNTY CRIMINAL COURTHOUSE — When jurors returned a verdict of guilty against the father of her slain 9-year-old daughter, Ericka Barnes held it together.
But later, surrounded by family and members of the Cook County State's Attorney's office who argued this week that Richard Lyons beat, strangled and stabbed the Mya Lyons before dumping her body in 2008, Barnes' emotions overtook her.
"My daughter wanted us to know what happened to her, and in that court . . . she told her story," Barnes said shortly after Richard Lyons was found guilty in the slaying.
Mya was found the night of July 14, 2008, by her father, Richard Lyons, limp and bloody in an alley near their home in the 8400 block of South Gilbert Court, according to initial reports.
Lyons told police that he rushed Mya to the hospital after discovering her in a weedy alley about ten lots from his house after she'd disappeared from home.
What Lyons didn't say, and what police couldn't immediately know, is that he put the dead girl's body in the alley as part of a cover-up, prosecutors said.
"It would be a lot more comfortable if some stranger, some mysterious boogeyman, beat and stabbed and killed that 9-year-old girl," Fabio Valentini, chief of the Cook County State's Attorney's Criminal Prosecutions Bureau, said during opening statements at Lyons' trial Tuesday.
"Sometimes, the truth is ugly. The truth is [Richard Lyons] killed his 9-year-old daughter."
Valentini accused Lyons of trying to cover up evidence that he had killed his own child when he stabbed her repeatedly to make it look like a "maniac" had attacked her and then dumped her body in an alley down the street from his house.
The night she was slain, Mya stayed out well past her curfew, prosecutors said. When she returned home at about 11 p.m., Lyons beat her so savagely that he killed her or knocked her out so that she appeared dead.
He stabbed Mya repeatedly in the back of his van and put her in the alley, prosecutors said, so that Lyons — "the hero" — could discover her a short time later and play the part of a devastated parent.
Defense attorney Andrea Webber insisted Lyons' actions the night of Mya's murder were those of "a truly upset father who rushed his daughter to the hospital to try and save her life."
But in January of 2011, more than two years after the murder, Lyons was arrested and charged with her murder after an independent blood splatter expert's finding offered new evidence.
The investigator determined that blood splattered in unlikely spots in Lyons' van suggested that she was stabbed inside the vehicle rather than elsewhere by an unknown attacker, as Lyons had claimed.
When the guilty verdict was read Friday, the 45-year-old father showed little emotion. But his uncle, Derrick Lyons, who said he rode with Richard Lyons in the van when he rushed Mya to the hospital, said he knows Richard Lyons is innocent.
"My nephew was good to his children," Derrick Lyons said on his way out of the courthouse. "It's just not fair the way it went. I am really saddened by our system."
He proposed that a burgler broke into the Lyons' residence, encountered the little girl and killed her.
But jurors saw Lyons as guilty.
"This wasn't a stranger nor was it a maniac that my daughter happened to wander upon. This was her father. ... She loved her dad," Barnes said.
Looking ahead to Lyons sentencing, she said: "He is going to pay for what he did to my baby."