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‘He was a cop… he had power’: Ex-girlfriend of deputy in murder/suicide says he abused her

Chynna hopes sharing her story will help others
Chynna Ratner
Posted at 12:37 PM, Mar 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-10 18:18:15-05

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — As the investigation into a murder/suicide continues, a woman has come forward alleging she was abused by the same detective investigators believe was the sole shooter.

Last month, family, friends, and fellow members of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office laid to rest Deputy Abigail Bieber, who was in a relationship with Detective Daniel Leyden.

Procession for Hillsborough County deputy killed in apparent murder-suicide to be held Wednesday

Days before, Chynna Ratner posted a video to her Instagram page, saying she dated Leyden six years ago and this is her first time speaking publicly about the abuse she survived. In the caption, she wrote, “I’m speaking up for those that couldn’t, can’t, and won’t have the ability to.”

Ratner shared her story of emotional, mental, physical, and sexual abuse with the ABC Action News I-Team in hopes of helping others, bringing attention to the fear that surrounds reporting an abuser to law enforcement when that person is law enforcement.

“I’ve wanted to share my story, I just never felt safe enough to do it, I’ve never felt comfortable enough to do it. And unfortunately, when I saw and heard about the news; I knew that there was probably no better time than to do that,” Ratner told the I-Team. “I didn’t know if my story could at all help her and her case or help somebody else that may have been affected.”

Sheriff: 2 Hillsborough County deputies dead after apparent murder-suicide

A preliminary investigation revealed Leyden, a Hillsborough County Sheriff's detective, killed Bieber and then shot and killed himself at a vacation rental in St. Augustine on Jan. 29. Four days later, Ratner posted the emotional 13-minute video to her Instagram page.

Full Video: Chynna Ratner shares her story on Instagram

Sitting down with Ratner, the I-Team asked her what came to mind when the news came out that the shooter’s name was Daniel Leyden.

“Kind of just like a sinking pit feeling in my stomach, lots of horrible flashbacks,” Ratner said. “We dated for less than a year. We met after a really bad car accident that I had in 2015, and it involved me and my dog at the time, who passed away in the car accident.”

Detective Daniel Layden
Detective Daniel Leyden

Ratner was 21 and Leyden was a 25-year-old deputy.

“He was the only one who stayed with me throughout the night, after they had processed the scene, and he gave me his jacket, he was a complete gentleman. He took down my information and waited until my family came to help me get away from the car accident. He called me a couple times after that to check in on me and then about a month later he found me on Facebook, and then asked me out on a date,” Ratner said. “It started off great, you know, he opened up all my car doors, he took me out on dates, flowers, the whole 9 yards.”

She said she started to notice more controlling behavior.

“He would question where I was going or who I was going with, or wanted an explanation of who they are and why I’m going to see them, why would I choose to go do that when I can hang out with him?”
Then, Ratner said, Leyden turned violent.

“It got to the point where it became physical and sexual.”

A turning point came on July 3, 2016.

Chynna Ratner and Daniel Leyden
Chynna Ratner and Daniel Leyden when they were dating in 2016.

“I went out with my friend to her house for a night and I had to be home by a certain time, and I pulled up to my apartment and he was waiting for me outside and started screaming at me for being late, that he didn’t want me to go out, it turned very, very aggressive. He started punching my car window, trying to break it, trying to get me out of the car, so I was like — I’m gonna leave,” Ratner said. “And he told me he was going to put his foot underneath the tire of my car so that if I did back out, I’d have to run over his foot. And I panicked and I backed out, ran over his foot, and then he called the cops and I realized at that time — he’s 100% using his power and badge to try to scare me, to manipulate me.”

The incident is detailed in a report the I-Team obtained from the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, backing up Ratner’s memories. A deputy noted she was “initially reluctant to speak” and didn’t want to involve law enforcement until she learned Leyden wanted to press charges against her for running over his foot.

“They took both of our statements, kept us separate, and they basically told him that he needs to go home for the night and I went back to my apartment,” Ratner said.

In Leyden’s statement, he said Ratner was mad at him and refused to talk to him and that she had been drinking.

Messages the I-Team obtained from the sheriff’s office between Ratner and Leyden during the incident reveal she texted him, “This is too much. I want everyone to go away. Please. I just wanna talk to you. That’s it. I don’t want you to hurt me or last out at me. Please don’t.”

Leyden told deputies he wanted to stop Ratner from driving while intoxicated. But they found she wasn’t drunk.

Detectives discussed charges of kidnapping/false imprisonment against Leyden and aggravated battery against Ratner with the Hillsborough County State Attorney’s Office. But according to the report, “There was not evidence of a criminal act.”

That’s where it ended.

“I told them that he was controlling, I told them that he was trying to stop me from leaving, I told them that he was punching my car, I told them all of these things, that I didn’t feel safe,” Ratner said.

Deputies gave Ratner a victim’s rights pamphlet. The incident, cleared as “unfounded," was not included in Leyden’s personnel file.

When asked why that was the case, a spokesperson for the sheriff’s office told the I-Team, “The incident between Leyden and Ratner was a call for service. Ratner never filed a complaint against Leyden. When a citizen files a complaint against an employee, our Professional Standards Section opens an investigation into said complaint, and the investigation and its outcome are later included in an employee’s personnel file.”

The I-Team found one citizen complaint from 2017 in Leyden’s file. In it, a woman alleged he was “shouting” and “yelling profanities” at her while responding to a call. The complaint was “unfounded” and the information provided “did not rise to the level of an administrative case being opened by internal affairs.”

Leyden’s personnel file is otherwise filled with positive performance reviews, including one from July 2021, months before officials say he killed Bieber and himself.

“Detective Leyden is well aware of his role in the public eye and would do nothing to diminish the public’s trust in him or the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office,” the review said.

Aside from two crashes deemed “avoidable," his work history is punctuated with nine certificates of commendation over his eight-and-a-half-year career.

Chynna Ratner talks with investigative reporter Kylie McGivern
Chynna Ratner talks with ABC Action News investigative reporter Kylie McGivern

Ratner said she knew she needed proof of Leyden’s violence.

“I snuck out one night and I got a 2-pack of cameras from Walmart and I put one behind, like underneath my TV, so I could record anything that could, or possibly may, happen. Once that incident happened with the cops coming to my apartment, he called me at work and told me he had some stuff at my apartment that he needed to get. And I told him, you know, it’s fine, I’ll drop it off after work, please don’t go into my apartment, I’ll drop it off, I’ll take care of it,” Ratner said.

At that point, Ratner said she and Leyden had already broken up.

“I knew he wasn’t going to listen. So I was standing at work with my phone, live streaming the camera, and I saw him and his best friend who is, or was a deputy at the time, I’m not sure if he still is, break into my apartment, take his stuff, and take my computer and wipe the entire thing of all of the evidence that I had, photos, videos, Word docs that I had written out about all of the abuse that had happened to me, I watched him do it, put my computer back, and then leave,” Ratner said.

Still, there was another night of violence that still haunts her, from when he followed Ratner home after seeing her out with friends.
“Once we were inside, he was screaming at me, he was pulling on my arm, pulling on the back of my hair, just yelling at me, like I didn’t — erratically. I looked at him and I was like — I have to walk the dogs, can I just go outside and walk the dogs? And in my mind, I was like, this is my one opportunity to get outside, maybe flag somebody down, do anything. And before I could even get the leashes on the dogs, he grabbed the back of my head, pulled out his gun, put it to the side of my head, looked me right in the eyes, and told me that if I were to scream, run or talk to anybody, that he would shoot my dogs in front of me, shoot me and then kill himself,” Ratner described in her Instagram video.

“It was just hours of verbal, physical, mental, sexual abuse,” Ratner told the I-Team.

She never reported the abuse.

“He was a cop, he was a good guy, he had power, I didn’t know what I was supposed to do,” she said.

“It took me five years to say something,” Ratner said, in tears in her Instagram video. She then pointed to a newspaper article on Leyden and Bieber. “If I didn’t leave, if I didn’t move, this could have been me. It could have been any of our friends, it could have been any woman. And it’s terrifying.”

The sheriff’s office would not agree to an interview after multiple requests to meet with Sheriff Chad Chronister.

Instead, it provided this statement:

Our internal affairs section immediately reached out to Chynna Ratner after being made aware of the very concerning statements she made on social media regarding her relationship with Daniel Leyden. We are continuing to work with her to investigate those allegations. Neither a domestic violence report nor internal affairs complaint against Leyden was ever filed by his ex-girlfriend five years ago when the alleged abuse occurred.

The only record our department has of an interaction between the two was following an argument when Leyden called 911 to report Ms. Ratner driving over his foot and potentially attempting to drive intoxicated. HCSO deputies on duty that night, who did not work on the same squad or even in the same district of the county as Leyden, responded to the scene. Statements were taken from both parties, and charges for both individuals were direct filed with the State Attorney's Office, who ultimately decided there was not enough evidence to move forward with charges against either individual.

As we stated immediately following the release of Ms. Ratner's video, no one, regardless of their occupation, is above the law. Domestic violence, rape, or abuse of any kind is never acceptable, and anyone who feels they are the victim of abuse should never be afraid to contact the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office by calling 813-247-8200 or one of the many local resources available, such as our community partners at the Spring of Tampa Bay, at 813-247-7233.
Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office

HCSO investigates allegations of previous abuse by detective accused of deputy's murder

In an earlier statement to the I-Team, HCSO said:

We hold our employees to an even higher standard than that of the citizens we are sworn to protect and serve. The recent allegations made against Daniel Leyden are deeply concerning and are being investigated, and we welcome anyone with information to please come forward and speak with detectives. Like so many others, we are angry and we are hurting from Leyden's heinous actions that ultimately claimed the life of one of our own, a beloved young deputy who had a bright future and her entire life ahead of her. While we are constantly producing public service announcements and sharing resources via social media, we cannot stress enough that help is available to anyone who feels they are the victim of domestic abuse. No one should be afraid to come forward, because doing so could save not only your life, but the life of a future victim.
Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office

“I’m hoping that by me sharing my story, that I can help other women who have been through something similar to be able to come to terms with it, to be able to talk about it, to seek help,” Ratner said.

The St. John’s County Sheriff’s Office is handling the ongoing investigation into the murder-suicide.

If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, resources are available. Please call the Florida Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-500-1119.

List of Domestic Violence Centers in Florida
Hillsborough County
The Spring of Tampa Bay
Phone: 813-247-5433
FAX: 813-247-2930
Hotline: 813-247-7233
TDD: 813-248-1050

Pinellas County
Community Action Stops Abuse
Also Known As: CASA
Phone: (727) 895-4912 (Ext. 100)
FAX: (727) 821-7101
Hotline: (727) 895-4912 (Ext. 1)
TDD: (727) 828-1269

The Haven of RCS, Also Known As: RCS Pinellas
Phone: (727) 584-3528
FAX: (727) 461-4702
Hotline: (727) 442-4128
SMS Text: (727) 465-6549
TDD: (727) 223-4946

Pasco County
The Salvation Army Domestic Violence Program of West Pasco
Phone: (727) 856-6498
FAX: (727) 857-1907
Hotline: (727) 856-5797
TDD: (727) 364-6132

Sunrise Domestic and Sexual Violence Center, Also Known As: Sunrise of Pasco
Phone: (352) 521-3358
FAX: (352) 521-3099
Hotline: (352) 521-3120

Polk County
Peace River Center Domestic Violence Shelter
Also Known As: Peace River
Phone: (863) 413-2708
FAX: (863) 413-3079
Hotline: (863) 413-2700
TDD: (863) 413-2700

Manatee County
HOPE Family Services
Phone: 941-747-8499
FAX: 941-749-1796
Hotline: 941-755-6805
TDD: 941-755-6805

Sarasota County
Safe Place and Rape Crisis Center
Also Known As: SPARCC
Phone: (941) 365-0208
FAX: (941) 365-4919
Hotline: (941) 365-1976
TDD: (941) 365-1976

Citrus County
Citrus County Abuse Shelter Association
Phone: 352-344-8112
FAX: 352-344-0548
Hotline: 352-344-8111
TDD: 352-344-8111

Hardee County
Peace River Center Domestic Violence Shelter
Phone: 863-413-2708
FAX: 863-413-3079
Hotline: 863-413-2700
TDD: 863-413-2700

Hernando County
Dawn Center of Hernando County
Phone: 352-684-7191
FAX: 352-684-7941
Hotline: 352-686-8430
TDD: 352-686-8430

Highlands County
Peace River Center Domestic Violence Shelter
Phone: 863-413-2708
FAX: 863-413-3079
Hotline: 863-413-2700
TDD: 863-413-2700

If you have something you’d like the I-Team to investigate, email or call 1-866-428-NEWS.