It was the business of a boy going through hell – and his parents had put him through that hell.
That’s what Natrona County Assistant District Attorney Jared Holbrook said to begin his closing arguments in a child abuse trial Thursday afternoon.
The case involved a 12-year-old boy who was forced up and down stairs until exhaustion.
And 12 Natrona County jurors returned his father a guilty verdict around 7 p.m. Thursday night.
Specifically, jurors convicted Ryan Hilyard of aggravated child abuse and child abuse. After the verdict was delivered, Natrona County District Court Judge Catherine Wilking revoked Hilyard’s bail. He was taken into custody.
Earlier this year, Hilyard’s wife Sarah Hilyard made a clear plea of attempted second degree murder and child abuse in connection with the incident.
Just before the oral argument, jurors saw a video that a Mills police detective discovered on Sarah Hilyard’s phone. In the video, a young boy is seen screaming begging for food and water. Sarah Hilyard can be heard offscreen laughing at the boy. She comments on the boy’s “fucked up little brain”.
In closing arguments, the role of Ryan Hilyard during the abuse was in question. Specifically, Ryan Hilyard’s lawyer told jurors that Ryan Hilyard worked long hours. Ryan Hilyard testified that he worked 80 to 90 hours a week and was at work when Sarah Hilyard called him to tell him that her son had to go to the hospital.
“What doesn’t make sense is that the accused doesn’t know what’s going on,” Holbrook said. “What makes sense is that he was involved all the time.”
Ryan Hilyard testified that his son appeared to have fallen down the stairs on August 2, 2020. His son was not taken to hospital until August 6, 2020.
But in a video shown to jurors during closing arguments, Ryan Hilyard is seen telling a Mills police officer that he knew his son had a black eye.
In closing arguments, Holbrook described to jurors a 12-year-old who suffered serious injuries on August 2, 2020. The boy was not taken to hospital until August 6. A doctor told investigators that if the boy had not been brought in, he would likely have died.
A doctor handling the case told jurors 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 brother told investigators that he was forced to participate in the mistreatment of his brother. He did it for fear the same would happen to him if he didn’t. Today he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Ryan Hilyard’s defense attorney Rob Oldham told jurors Ryan Hilyard was unaware of his son’s abuse, calling the ensuing investigation a “witch hunt.”
Twelve jurors from Natrona County disagreed.