6, 2003 -
February 21, 2012
A Grave Memorial
going to run her. I'm going to run her until she can run no more".
These were the words a grandmother said to her granddaughters bus
driver after finding out she had eaten a candy bar. Run her till she
couldn't run no more was EXACTLY
what this woman did. That grandmother and the girls stepmother are now
both sitting in prison charged with her death.
forced by her grandmother to run for three hours,
reportedly while carrying heavy logs,
because she lied to her about having eaten a candy bar. Joyce Garrard
was indicted on a charge of capital murder and Jessica Hardin was
indicted on a charge of felony murder
after Savannah died as a result of the punishment she received on
February 17, 2012.
What's so bad about eating a candy bar? Joyce said sweets make Savannah
wet the bed. In fact, Savannah had a bladder condition, common in young
girls which meant she should not have any caffeine. While she was
running, several neighbors noticed, but didn't think anything was going
on. I'm sorry, you see a child running for THREE HOURS
carrying heavy logs and you think NOTHING
is going on?
got several witnesses in the neighborhood who saw the child struggling
for air and vomiting and even that didn't stop Garrard. You've got four
or five different people who saw parts of it, and you stitch together
what happened through all of their testimony" District
Attorney - Jimmie Harp
one point, Savannah was crawling on the
to be able to stop, she looked at her stepmother and her grandmother
you look at her, she's not going to help you"
Savannah was forced
to continue running
and ONLY when it was clear
that something was terribly wrong, did
Savannah get a break. At that point, it was far too late. Jessica
called police at about 6:45pm and said that her daughter was
unresponsive and was having a seizure. An autopsy
report would later show that Savannah was extremely dehydrated and her
sodium level as also very low.
Savannah's death was ruled as a homicide.
Joyce Gerrard, who was 46 at the time and Jessica Hardin, who was 27 at
the time, were each being held on a cash bond of
$500,000 and were being being held on suicide watch. The day after
being arrested, Jessica gave birth
to a baby.
Savannah's father, Robert Hardin, had filed for divorce in August of
2010. He claimed that Jessica was bipolar
and drank too much. In his complaint he also stated that Jessica had,
at one point, run away with a child they had together, a boy who was
three years old by the time Savannah died.
Jessica said that none of this was true and five months
later, a judge was asked, by them, to dismiss the case and they were
Deputy DA Marcu Reid spoke in a hearing stating that there is school
bus footage of Joyce telling the bus driver that she was going to run
Savannah till shouldn't couldn't run
no more. During the time she was running, Savannah's step mother was
playing on her phone and lap top computer.
She could have stopped this at any time and she chose not to.
At the hospital, Joyce and Jessica seemed, to witnesses, to be more
interested in making sure they could get
outside to smoke, than they were in the condition of Savannah. No
family was there by here side while she was
suffering until her mother and father showed up.
Patrick Blackwelder, who is Savannah's biological
mothers ex-boyfriend, said that before she had moved to Alabama to live
with her father and stepmother, Savannah had
been treated well:
what I see, her biological mother treated her fairly, treated her
overseas, Robert Hardin had to take several flights in order to return
home and was faced with making the horrible decision to take Savannah
off of life support.
she was caused undergo physical exertion to the point in time where she
got dehydrated and her electrolyte levels got to the point where she
couldn't survive life"
District Attorney - Jimmie Harp
lawyer, representing Joyce, stated that she looks forward to clearing
Joyce's name. Good luck with that one. I wish lawyers had consciences.
Just a few hours after County District Attorney Jimmie Harp said that
the death penalty would be sought against Joyce and life in prison for
Jessica, a layer for Joyce stated that
she would be found not guilty. Dani V. Bone stated:
murder charges were exaggerated, inflated and false"
Dani stated that
Joyce was innocent and that a jury would acquit her
when at trial:
"Mrs Garrard and her
family continue to be united in their fight for justice and look forward
clearing her name"
Funny statement considering
a relative who
didn't want to be named, said this:'
are disgusted and ashamed by the events that have taken place. We do
not and did not agree
with the way Savannah was punished. Joyce did
love her but she took the punishment to the
extreme. I myself am just
outraged by all that has taken place. There is no excuse for what she
Morgan Cunningham, one of
Jessica's lawyers had this to say:
this time Jessica Hardin is incredibly devastated over Savannah's
a child passes
away our society wants to
place blame; our media wants to
officials want to make grandiose statements that are not
We ask that the public not make judgments based upon rumors and
allow the judicial
process to run its course at which
time we believe Jessica Hardin's
I have to wonder why
it is that these lawyers NEVER
see what their clients have
done as being wrong. I do realize
that everyone is entitled to a fair trial and all that,
however, if I was a lawyer, I could NEVER
claim that a person
who does these horrible things, was innocent. The evidence CLEARLY shows that this woman had
to run Savannah and run her hard. An innocent child was tortured
to death here and this lawyer says that the
grandmother is innocent? I am disgusted more every time I read
about this happening:
the years before her death, life was
not always easy for Savannah. There was allegations of abuse and her parents
were going through a nasty custody fight. Robert and Heather
Hardin each had their own stories of how the
other abused Savannah:
"The child was caught
up in a domestic dispute between mom and dad and I think it's fair
there was a high
level of dysfunction in the household"
Durdaller - DFC
Robert made claims
that Savannah had been beaten by her mother and her
mothers boyfriend. Savannah told DCF
that this was not true. Records showed that between 2007 and 2009,
CPS was contacted many times with claims
of either neglect or abuse by both of these parents, however,
none of the claims were ever found to be true:
"The level of
dysfunction was high, but we did not deem the child at eminent risk
Durdaller - DFC
DCF stated that they
investigate many cases where parents accuse
each other of abuse and it turns out to be false.
half brother and the child born while Jessica was in jail,
were being cared for by a relative.
February of 2012, people began to
wonder where Savannah's biological parents were. Savannah's father, Robert,
had full custody of her and had been working over seas at the
time of her death. A court date had been set
for March of 2012 in which Heather, Savannah's mother, was going to
try to get back custody of her. In the month
of December 2011, Heather had been ordered to go to a psyche
evaluation and Savannah was to stay in
the custody of her father unless it was changed during the upcoming
In January of 2014, after having been in jail for almost two years,
Joyce Hardin Garrard was 48 years old and claiming that her health was
failing and that she was wrongly accused in the death of Savannah and
was asking for bond. Circuit Judge William Ogletree would not set bond
and sent her back to jail and then scheduled a trial date of June 23,
2104. Dani Bone, Lawyer for Joyce, said that charges were a 'travesty
of justice" and that since Joyce's health was failing her, she could
help in her defense more easily if she was out of jail.
Medical forms showed that Joyce had made complaints in September and
October of the previous year of severe headaches, chest pains and knots
in her groin and breast and that this had been going on for quite some
time. District Attorney Jimmie Harp was opposed to bond and said that
the only travesty in this case was that Savannah is dead.
Joyce didn't say anything during the hearing and when she was lead
away, Dani Bone asked people to pray for her:
"Joyce has faith in the
system. She has faith in us"
Joyce is facing the death penalty if convicted, though Dani Bone thinks
she will never be convicted and that the circumstances of Savannah's
death do not meet requirements for the death penalty. Dani also said
that Savannah's death was because of previous health problems. Jessica
Mae Hardin was out on $150,000. bond,but still facing a charge of
murder for not helping Savannah.
November 13, 2014
In November of 2014 Joyce Garrard Hardin was 49 years old when asked
the appeals court to dismiss the charge of capital murder against her
saying there had been problems with the autopsy and the legal delays it
caused. Joyce's Lawyers filed papers saying that there were many
problems with the autopsy of Savannah in 2012 and that she died because
she had health problems and they believe that the autopsy could be a
vital part of the trial.
Joyce had plead not guilty and was facing the death penalty if she was
convicted and a trial was set for February 12, 2015 after two dates
that had been previously set had been changed. The document asking for
the charged to be dismissed had been filed on October 28, 2014 and
Prosecutors had not responded as of today's date though they have until
later this month to respond.
The petition said that Savannah's autopsy was done by a Doctor who had
been fired for allegations that of falsification of documents and
dereliction of duty. That Doctor did not show up for cases he was
supposed to testify in and he might not be able to testify in this
In the past, the Judge refused to dismiss the charges. Defense lawyers
say that Joyce is suffering with severe health problems and that she
should be let go. Perhaps they should make her run around until she
drops? I hear that's what you do when someone had severe health
Jessica was still out on bond at this time.
Occurred in the state of Alabama
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