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Mills man to serve up to 30 years for child abuse conviction

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A Mills man convicted of child abuse is set to spend up to 30 years in prison, a sentencing document filed in March states.

A jury found Ryan Hilyard guilty of two counts of child abuse in November. An affidavit states he and his wife, Sarah, drugged, beat and kicked a child in their home.

Sarah Hilyard accepted a plea agreement late last year, pleading guilty to two counts of child abuse and no contest to an attempted second-degree murder charge for her role in the abuse. She had initially pleaded not guilty by reason of mental illness at her arraignment, court filings show.

She is serving 25 to 35 years in prison for the attempted murder, and is set to serve another sentence of five to 10 years for child abuse after the first is complete.

In March, a Natrona County judge sentenced Ryan Hilyard to 18 to 20 years for aggravated child abuse, and an additional 5 to 10 years afterwards for the other abuse conviction.

Court filings state that the couple was physically abusive to a 12-year-old child, requiring degrading and exhausting exercises and at times withholding food. The charges also state they told another child to beat the 12-year-old.

The abuse came to light, according to the affidavit, when Sarah Hilyard brought the child to Wyoming Medical Center. There, court filings state, scans found bleeding and swelling in their brain, bowel distention and a collapsed ventricle in their heart. They also reportedly had bruises on much of their body and several injuries consistent with non-accidental blunt force trauma.

A doctor told her, according to court documents, that if they didn’t act quickly the child would “die very quickly.” They transported the child to a Colorado hospital for treatment.

She initially told doctors that the injuries came from the child falling down the stairs and fighting with a sibling.

The children told investigators, according to the affidavit, that they were made to do exercises like running up and down the stairs as punishment. One said that the couple yelled at, punched and kicked a sibling who passed out from exhaustion.

A search of the home described in court filings found traces of urine, feces and vomit in the house. Several videos obtained by law enforcement show instances of punishment. The child can be heard in one video, the affidavit states, asking repeatedly for “food and water, and clean clothes.”

One of the children told a detective that Ryan Hilyard had told them to lie to police about the injuries so Hilyard could avoid jail time, and said to instead say that the child had just fallen.

Court records show Hilyard filed for a new trial in December, alleging improper testimony had tainted his proceeding, but was denied five days later.

Robert Oldham, the attorney representing Hilyard, declined to comment on the case Tuesday.

Follow city and crime reporter Ellen Gerst on Twitter at @ellengerst.

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