Slaying victim's family speaks out before defendant gets 20-year sentence

Tuesday, November 24, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CST; updated 12:06 a.m. CST, Tuesday, November 24, 2009

COLUMBIA— Clyde Hyler III, 24, sat slumped in his chair.

He had already pleaded guilty to charges of involuntary manslaughter and stealing in the 2008 slaying of Antonio Flores-Ramirez, 29; a 20-year prison sentence had been recommended in August.

But before he could go to prison — and before the case could finally be put to bed — he had to hear from members of Flores-Ramirez's family, who gave statements in front of Boone County Circuit Judge Gary Oxenhandler on Monday afternoon during Hyler's final hearing. Oxenhandler sentenced him to the 20 years previously recommended.

First to speak was Flores-Ramirez's brother, Miguel Flores. Their brother, Alejandro Flores, had been stabbed to death in 2006; his killer had received a 20-year sentence and now walks free, he said. Miguel Flores didn't want the same to happen with Hyler.

Flores-Ramirez's son, Chazare Wiyrick, 11, haltingly read a statement about his father written front-and-back on a piece of notebook paper he'd titled "TRIAL PAPER" in block letters. His hands shook a bit as he read.

Flores-Ramirez's other son, Trayton Wiyrick, 10, had his own piece of notebook paper. "I don't know why they had to take his life away," he read.

Eight of Flores-Ramirez's family members were in attendance. But they weren't the only ones to speak — members of Hyler's family showed up too.

Oxenhandler allowed defense counsel Kevin O'Brien to call Hyler's sister, Kimberly Hyler, to the stand.

Kimberly Hyler, 25, tearfully remembered how their aunt had been murdered when Clyde Hyler was 3 — possibly by a family member, her mother thought. They didn't get to have a normal childhood, Kimberly Hyler said, and her "baby brother" didn't have a father figure growing up.

Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Steven Berry asked Kimberly Hyler if she knew her brother had provided the gun that killed Flores-Ramirez. She paused before she said, "No."

According to previous Missourian reports, on Aug. 21, 2008, Hyler and Antoine Harris, 32, of Columbia, killed Flores-Ramirez and wounded another man as the result of a drug set-up in which the victims were to be robbed. Police said Flores-Ramirez and Javier Perdoza, 23, thought they were going to buy drugs from Hyler.

Harris pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and first-degree assault. Berry has said a trial would have shown that Harris was the shooter.

Hyler would have the final word during his last hearing. He turned in his seat and apologized to Flores-Ramirez's family, saying that he'd put himself "in a bad situation." He occasionally made eye contact, but they never stopped looking at him.

Hyler directly apologized to Flores-Ramirez's sons, and, for a moment, seemed to lose his words.

"I'd just like to say to y'all — I deeply apologize," he said, eyes down.

"Thank you," Kena Flores, Flores-Ramirez's sister-in-law, said quietly.

After Hyler's hearing ended — and his 20 year sentence had been cemented — he gave a sad wink to his family as the bailiffs led him away. Kena Flores rushed to Hyler's sister and the two hugged.

The Hyler and Flores-Ramirez families then mingled outside the courtroom and commiserated — about the family they'd lost, about what it was like to lose a loved one.

"Are you Chazare?" Kimberly Hyler asked Flores-Ramirez's 11-year-old son. Chazare nodded.

"Nice to meet you," she said, eyes rimmed with tears. "Give me a hug." The two embraced. Chazare wore a white shirt emblazoned with his father's picture and the words In Loving Memory, and he pressed his head into Kimberly Hyler's stomach.

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