Now I have heard it all. What the hell were these two rubes thinking by making a nine year old run for three hours? Does Alabama have the death sentence? Because it would be a good idea to get Jessica Mae Hardin out of the gene pool. JD
Roger Simpson said he saw a little girl running outside her home but didn’t give it another thought. Police say he witnessed a murder in progress.
Authorities say 9-year-old Savannah Hardin died after being forced to run for three hours as punishment for lying to her grandmother about eating candy bars. Severely dehydrated, the girl had a seizure and died days later. Now, her grandmother and stepmother face murder charges.
“A 9-year-old child is actually run to death in this day and time,” Etowah County Sheriff Todd Entrekin said at a news conference Wednesday.
“The taking of a candy bar turned into an all-day marathon,” added county District Attorney Jimmie Harp at the conference. “She just collapsed.”
Witnesses told deputies Savannah was told to run and not allowed to stop for three hours on Friday, Barton said. The girl’s stepmother, 27-year-old Jessica Mae Hardin, called police that evening, telling them Savannah was having a seizure and was unresponsive.
Simpson said he saw a little girl running but didn’t see anybody chasing or coercing her.
“I saw her running down there, that’s what I told the detectives,” Simpson said. “But I don’t see how that would kill her.”
Deputies were told the girl was made to run after lying to her grandmother, 46-year-old Joyce Hardin Garrard, about having eaten the candy, Barton said.
Savannah was “severely dehydrated” when she died, with a very low sodium level, Etowah County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Natalie Barton told the Star on Thursday.
A preliminary autopsy also found no evidence that the little girl had a bladder condition, Barton said. Her grandmother had said Savannah was forbidden candy because of the condition.
Savannah Hardin died Monday, according to a news release from the sheriff’s office. A state pathologist ruled it a homicide.
Garrard and Jessica Mae Hardin are being held on a $500,000 cash bond for each.
Jessica Mae Hardin gave birth Wednesday in hospital under guard, District Attorney Harp said Thursday.
Savannah’s 3-year-old stepbrother was with family, Barton said.
The little girl’s father, Robert Hardin, returned home from his job as a private contractor in Pakistan for the U.S. government in time to see his daughter removed from a ventilator, Barton said. She didn’t know how long he had been away.
Robert Hardin and Savannah’s mother, Heather, divorced in 2006. Heather Hardin lived in Florida, Barton said.
Gail Denny and her husband Phil, live just up a dirt road from the home. They’ve known the family since they moved to the area in northeastern Alabama seven years ago.
The couple said they were used to seeing Savannah and other neighbourhood children out waiting on the school bus in the morning. Gail Denny said her grandson had a crush on Savannah.
“My grandson asked her to be his girlfriend on Valentine’s Day, and she said ‘yes,’“ Denny said before dissolving into tears. She left a candle and stuffed animal outside the girl’s home Wednesday night, saying a prayer as she paused beside the road.
The trailer where Savannah lived was surrounded by a wooden fence, playground equipment and toys. Neighbours say they never saw children playing in the yard.
They told The Associated Press that Garrard owned a lot of property along the road and much of her family lived in homes on that property.
“It seems like a very happy extended family around here,” Denny said. “There are mothers, grandmothers, kids. It sounds like a punishment that got out of hand.”
School superintendent Alan Cosby said Savannah Hardin’s desk had been turned into a makeshift memorial where her classmates could leave notes and mementos.
“This is obviously a very tragic, devastating, heartbreaking situation,” Cosby said. “Nothing like this has ever happened before.”
“Her daddy called her princess. Every day she would come in the school and just be a little light,” Principal Donna Johnson told WBRC-TV.
“Every day she would always say, ‘Hello Mrs. Johnson you look beautiful today.’ She would always say, ‘Yes ma’am, no ma’am. Can you do this for me? Yes ma’am, no ma’am.’ Always respected authority.”