Tyler man gets 36 years for molestations

EDITOR'S NOTE: The name of the victim in this article is not identified in keeping with the Tyler Morning Telegraph's policy to protect the identity of victims of sexual abuse and to encourage the reporting of such crimes.

Staff Writer

A former Tyler coach and teacher was sentenced to 36 years in prison Tuesday for repeatedly molesting an 8-year-old girl.

Robert "Kevin" Cyphers, 45, was found guilty of three counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child after a Smith County jury deliberated for about six hours in 7th District Judge Kerry Russell's court Friday. They sentenced him to 12 years in prison on each count after 45 minutes of deliberation Tuesday. Russell ordered that the defendant serve the sentences consecutively. Cyphers, who faces probation up to life in prison, will be eligible for parole after serving one-half of the prison terms.

Cyphers was convicted of molesting the 8-year-old girl three different ways on Oct. 2 while the victim's mother was at work. Authorities became involved after Whitehouse school officials discovered a note the victim had written, which said she had been sexually abused.

The victim, who is now 9, testified she was sexually abused several times before and during the third grade. She said she was scared and uncomfortable and she didn't know why it was happening. He told her not to tell her mother. She said she now has bad dreams about Cyphers.

The victim said she wrote the note at school, which stated Cyphers sexually abused her "because I was scared" and she wanted someone to see it.

Cyphers, who had worked at John Tyler High School around 2002, testified Tuesday, maintaining his innocence. He said he would comply with all the conditions if he was placed on probation. Cyphers said he knew his days of refereeing, coaching and teaching were over.

Cyphers admitted to pleading guilty in Houston to possessing cocaine in 1999, and successfully completing his sentence of deferred adjudication probation. In 2000, he received a 30-day jail sentence for allegedly violating that probation by failing a drug test, but he said he did not use drugs.

Cyphers was arrested Jan. 27 for violating the conditions of his bond in the aggravated sexual assault of a child cases for not reporting to probation officers. He said when deputies came to his house to arrest him, he was hiding in a closet because he knew he did wrong by not reporting and he did not want to go to jail.

Smith County Probation Officer David Wood testified about the conditions Cyphers would have to follow if he received probation, which included registering as a sex offender, undergoing treatment and having no unsupervised contact with children.

Wood said he believed Cyphers would not be a good candidate for probation.

Cyphers' 14-year-old daughter Katie said he was the "best dad" who "never laid a hand on us."

The defendant's uncle, Norris Parker, said Cyphers was a good father.

Assistant Smith County District Attorney Peter Keim said Cyphers didn't just wake up one morning and decide he was attracted to 8 year olds. "It just doesn't work that way."

He asked the jurors what was appropriate for a man who violates the trust and innocence of a small child. "Only one punishment is appropriate - life...," he said. "Life because he earned it; not once, not twice but three times he earned it."

Defense attorney Robert Perkins said Cyphers has maintained his innocence. He said his client was not a perfect person and had pleaded guilty to possessing less than 1 gram of cocaine in 1999 because he did something wrong.

"Y'all are going to get to decide what happens in the rest of 'Kevin' Cyphers' life," he said.

Perkins said no one had ever made a sexual assault accusation before against Cyphers and he has no criminal convictions.

"He has lost basically everything as a result of this," he said, adding that he won't be able to see his own children without supervision.

Assistant DA Stacy Cunnin-gham said it was a crime of opportunity, secrecy and coercion and Cyphers gave the victim nightmares, fear, humiliation and guilt. Cyphers took away the girl's right to be a kid, to trust and to feel safe.

"Her life is forever changed because of him," she said.

After his client was sentenced, Perkins said he was surprised Russell stacked the sentences.

"I don't believe that's what the jury intended and I don't think it's called for under the circumstances," he said, adding that Cyphers plans to appeal the verdict.

Cyphers testified Friday that none of the things the victim accused him of were true.

He was a teacher for 16 years and a coach for 20 years he said, working for the Houston Independent School District, as well as three other districts in the Houston area.

Cyphers was a teacher and coach at John Tyler High School for one year, but quit in 2003 to be a stay-at-home dad and to work on getting his master's degree. He is a sports official for school districts all over East Texas, refereeing volleyball and basketball games, he said.

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