As she held back her tears, Ericka Barnes said she will always feel guilty for not being able to protect her 9-year-old daughter when she was brutally stabbed and strangled by her ex, the man she called a “coward and psychopath.”

“I would give anything to change places with Mya [Lyons], to take away the terror, pain and I am sure the disbelief she suffered that night,” Barnes said Friday before Richard Lyons was sentenced to the maximum 60 years in prison.

Cook County Judge Vincent Gaughan called Mya’s heinous murder at the hands of her father a “tragedy.”

Lyons, 45, declined to speak in court after Assistant Public Defender Christopher Anderson unsuccessfully argued for a new trial, suggesting that Mya had been killed by a burglar on July 14, 2008.

On the night of the murder, Lyons told police he found his daughter lying in pool of blood in a dilapidated lot near his home in the 8400 block of Gilbert Court.

But 2 1/2 years later, Lyons was charged with killing Mya after a blood spatter expert, Rod Englert, determined that the girl wasn’t attacked in the grassy alley where Lyons claimed but near his home and in the black van he said he drove to frantically to search for her.

Lyons tried to cover his tracks the minute he slammed Mya’s body against a lockbox and beat her so bad, he fractured her skull, Assistant State’s Attorney Fabio Valentini said Friday.

Mya suffered more than 30 stab wounds on her neck and abdomen, prosecutors said. She also had severe bleeding and numerous abrasions on her body.

But Lyons, a Northwestern Hospital radiology technician, never showed any remorse for what he inflicted on Mya, Valentini said.

Barnes described Mya as a good kid who always smiled and helped her little brother, Omary, get off the bus after preschool.

“I’ve had so many sleepless nights, I wake up almost every night with tears in my eyes because of nightmares of what my baby had to endure,” Barnes said.

“Images overwhelm me.”

Barnes sobbed loudly and hugged family members and supporters following the sentencing hearing.

“My baby’s smiling [down on us],” she said softly.

Lyons’ uncle, Derrick Lyons, said he was “heartbroken” because he believes his nephew is innocent.

Email: rhussain@suntimes.com

Twitter: @rummanahussain