Grandmother, stepmother charged with running girl to death

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Joyce Hardin Garrard and Jessica Mae Hardin (left to right)

ATTALLA, Ala. — Roger Simpson said he looked down the road and saw a little girl running outside her home but didn’t give it another thought. Police, however, said the man witnessed a murder in progress.

Authorities say 9-year-old Savannah Hardin died after being forced to run for three hours as punishment for having lied to her grandmother about eating candy bars. Severely dehydrated, the girl had a seizure and died days later.

Now, her grandmother and stepmother who police say meted out the punishment were taken to jail Wednesday and face murder charges.

Savannah Hardin died Monday from severe dehydration and low sodium levels, a condition common in marathon runners, according to Natalie Barton, Etowah County, Alabama Public Information Officer.

“Basically she was caused to undergo physical exertion to the point in time where she just got dehydrated and her electrolyte levels got to the point where she couldn’t survive life,” Etowah County District Attorney Jimmie Harp said.

Etowah County Sheriff Todd Entrekin says her grandmother, Joyce Hardin Garrard, 46, allegedly punished Savannah for eating the candy and lying to her by making her run without stopping around the house for about three hours.

Several hours later Savannah’s stepmother, Jessica Hardin, 27, called 911 to report that the girl was having seizures and was unresponsive. Savannah was taken first to a hospital in Gadsden and then airlifted to Children’s Hospital in Birmingham.

Both women have been charged with murder in her death.

The charges against Garrard and Hardin could be upgraded, possibly to capital murder, as the investigation continues.

The girl’s father, who had custody, was working overseas at the time, said Barton.

Credit: The Associated Press.

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