Devon woman jailed for savage attack on 'best friend' later found dead

A Devon woman was savagely beaten by her drug-fuelled best friend before dying at a house in Barnstaple, a court heard. Blood-soaked Cheyenne Loder was arrested on suspicion of murdering Hayley Adams in Gorwell Road on November 4, 2023.

She told people at the scene "What have I done?" and "I think I've killed Hayley." She was due to stand trial for murder but a post-mortem report found Miss Adams had an underlying health condition and doctors could not be certain exactly about how she died.

But it was clear that she had been subjected to a ferocious beating by Loder before she died.

Loder, 32, admitted causing grievous bodily harm and has been jailed for two and a half years at Exeter Crown Court. She wrote a letter to the victim's family saying she could not remember what had happened and she "loved and missed" her best friend.

An ambulance was called at 5pm by Loder's father who told them he was at his daughter's house and there was a female with a faint pulse who was not breathing. When paramedics arrived he told them his daughter had called him and asked him to come round because "Hayley is on the floor and I don't know what's happened."

Paramedics called police who arrived at 5.30pm, said prosecutor Joss Ticehurst. Loder made a number of comments at the scene including "What have I done, she's my best friend?" and that she had been trying to pull her friend's teeth out. She said the pair had been on a crack cocaine binge and had also taken alcohol and amphetamine.

She said: "I've done it. I know I've killed her. I don't know what happened. I woke up on top of her. We've been on crack cocaine for three days. I woke up on top of her and called my father."

Miss Adams, 38, was pronounced dead at 5.38pm. There was nobody else present in the house at the time of the violence.

Police later spoke to one member of the public who said the pair had been seen laughing, joking and giggling in the street together earlier that day.

Loder told police she had known Miss Adams for eight or nine years and she would never harm her. She was charged with murder and a trial date set for April.

Want the latest Devon breaking news and top stories first? Click here to join our WhatsApp group. We also treat our community members to special offers, promotions, and adverts from us and our partners. If you don’t like our community, you can check out any time you like. If you’re curious, you can read our Privacy Notice

But a report by forensic pathologist Dr Amanda Jefferys concluded the cause of death was unascertained. Miss Adams sustained blunt force trauma consistent with punches, kicks or stamps. Six of her teeth were missing and five were found at the scene.

There was extensive bruising to her head and a clump of hair had been pulled from its roots. No weapon had been used. Tests revealed she was under the influence of drugs at the time. She also had an underlying condition called sarcoidosis. It was not possible to attribute a clear cause of death.

Although it was likely that the assault played a role in Ms Adams’ death, it was not possible to exclude the possibility that death would have occurred due to the combined effects of cocaine use and an underlying medical condition in the absence of an assault.

"It was not one of murder," said Mr Ticehurst. The Crown accepted Loder's guilty plea to causing grievous bodily harm at a hearing in April.

The defendant has previous convictions for violence, including ABH, but the last offence was more than a decade ago. Psychiatrists assessed her mental state and concluded she suffers from complex PTSD and multiple psychoactive dependency. She has a history of drug-induced blackouts leading to unawareness of the consequences of her actions.

In a statement the family of Miss Adams said the tragic circumstances of the incident will live with them forever. They described Miss Adams, a mum-of-three, as being the "life and soul of the party who lit up any room she graced and made people feel like the centre of the world."

The said they will never understand how their daughter died and came to be the victim of a vicious assault by her best friend. "We know she was alive before the assault and was not by the end."

"Cheyenne has caused so many people a lifetime of pain," they said. "A short sentence will be a cruel blow."

Police named the Barnstaple woman who died as Hayley Adams
Police named the Barnstaple woman who died as Hayley Adams

Joe Stone KC, defending, said Loder's mental conditions were linked to the offending. In a letter she said: "I would never ever want to cause any harm to Hayley. I wish I could remember what the hell happened and what went wrong. I have no memory after midday. I just want to say how totally sorry I am."

Judge James Adkin said he was not convinced Loder's mental disorder was linked to the offence but self-imposed drug use was. He put the crime in the highest category of seriousness. The maximum sentence available to the judge for GBH was five years. Loder was entitled to full reduction for her guilty plea before mitigation.

"The defendant told doctors she could become aggressive when using alcohol and could take things the wrong way," said the judge. He said consuming hundreds of pounds worth of crack cocaine was "the only explanation for the force of the attack on your friend and the ferocity of the violence you did to Hayley."

He added: "The fact you were a friend of Hayley seems to me not any great mitigation at all. It must have been all the more shocking for her to be attacked by somebody she would have felt safe with and the very last person who would have attacked her."

He said it was the right decision of the prosecution to accept the defendant's plea even though it must seem "counterintuitive" given the circumstances.

"I can wholly understand the upset and frustration of the family of Hayley Adams here today. She was a much loved mother of three.

"The pathology is inconclusive about how she died because of pre-existing condition and consumption of drugs."

The judge said Loder would serve 15 months of her sentence in prison and the rest on licence after her release. The time she has already spent in custody will also count towards when she is released.

Senior Investigating Officer, Detective Inspector David Egan said afterwards: “Hayley Adams was subjected to a sustained attack and her death has had a devastating effect on her family.

“Violence has no place in civil society and Devon & Cornwall Police will always do its utmost to investigate these matters and bring offenders to justice, with this case being of particular impact to the community of Barnstaple.

“I would like to thank and commend all those involved in investigating this case, including the Major Crime Investigation Team, experts, prosecution team and members of the public who have assisted and provided evidence.

“My deepest condolences go to Hayley’s family and those who knew her. I hope that today’s sentence will bring some comfort and closure for them.”