Protesters say 20 years in prison too lenient for death of little girl

Friends and family of Hailey Rocha, who died in 2010 at 16 months, protest Monday afternoon outside the Montrose County Courthouse, where Daniel Ryan was sentenced to 20 years in prison for killing the child. The protesters wanted a stiffer sentence for 24-year-old Ryan.



Daniel Ryan



MONTROSE — Family members delivered emotional testimony Monday afternoon during the sentencing of Daniel Ryan, convicted of killing 16-month-old Hailey Rocha in September.

Ryan, 24, of Montrose, was sentenced to 20 years after pleading guilty in April to an amended charge of negligent child abuse resulting in the death of Hailey, whose records show she suffered blunt-force trauma to the head.

Ryan also received five years’ probation with credit for 274 days served.

“Hailey was stolen away from me on Sept. 11, 2010 ... I loved Hailey,” Rocha’s mother, Pamela Barnes, told Judge Jeff Herron.

Barnes, fighting tears, told Herron that on the day Hailey died, she was working at Taco Bell when Ryan arrived with Hailey, unconscious, unresponsive, blue and pale.

Ryan told Barnes the child had slipped in the bathtub and he “didn’t know what to do.”

“I had no reason not to believe him. I never once believed my kids were in harm’s way,” Barnes said.

Ryan’s family members entered the courthouse to chants of “last chance for Hailey” coming from friends and family of Hailey Rocha. They lined the entryway to the courthouse.

Those friends and family donned pink T-shirts bearing Hailey’s picture.

Ryan entered the courtroom in a black-and-gray jumpsuit. Barnes, sitting nearby, shielded her view with her handwritten statement.

That is when the tears began.

The family has protested the plea agreement, saying Ryan’s 20-year sentence was too lenient.

Public defender Harvey Palefsky told Herron that Ryan and Barnes were having relationship trouble. Eviction, mounting bills and stress from working long hours placed an undue toll on the family.

“From everything that I’ve been told and everything I’ve seen, Daniel Ryan was law-abiding, and it’s a very rare day that I sentence anyone with no prior criminal record,” Herron said.

Herron told both sides that a time of hate must subside so a time of healing could begin.

“Sir, I think this one act is going to define your life,” Herron told Ryan. “You took out your anger on a completely defenseless child.”


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