2003 - February 21, 2012
Find A Grave Memorial
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.
was 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
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
several witnesses in the neighborhood who saw
the child struggling
air and vomiting and even that didn't stop
Garrard. You've got four or five
people who saw parts of it, and you stitch
together what happened
all of their testimony"
- Jimmie Harp
At one point, Savannah was crawling on the ground
begging to be able to stop, she looked at her
stepmother and her grandmother told her:
look at her, she's not going to help you"
was forced to continue running and ONLY
when it was clear that something was terribly
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
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 never divorced.
Deputy DA Marc 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
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:
I see, her biological mother treated her
fairly, treated her kindly"
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
was caused 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
District Attorney - Jimmie Harp
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:
charges were exaggerated, inflated and
stated that Joyce was innocent and that a
jury would acquit her when at trial:
Garrard and her family continue to be
united in their fight for justice and
look forward to
statement considering a relative who
didn't want to be named, said this:'
"We are disgusted and ashamed by the
events that have taken place. We do
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
is no excuse for what she has done"
Morgan Cunningham, one of Jessica's
lawyers had this to say:
time Jessica Hardin is incredibly
devastated over Savannah's death.
child passes away our society wants to
place blame; our media wants to
our elected officials want to make
grandiose statements that are not
fact. We ask that the public not make
judgments based upon rumors and
the judicial process to run its course
at which time we believe Jessica
have to wonder why it is that these
see what their clients have done as being
wrong. I do realize
everyone is entitled to a fair trial and
all that, however, if I was a lawyer, I
claim that a person
does these horrible things, was innocent.
The evidence CLEARLY
shows that this woman had the intent
run Savannah and run her hard. An innocent
child was tortured to death here and this
lawyer says that the
is innocent? I am disgusted more every
time I read about this happening:
years before her death, life was not
always easy for Savannah. There were
allegations of abuse and her parents
going through a nasty custody fight.
Robert and Heather Hardin each had their
own stories of how the
child was caught up in a domestic dispute
between mom and dad and I think it's fair
say there was a high level of dysfunction
in the household"
made claims that Savannah had been beaten
by her mother and her mothers boyfriend.
Savannah told DCF
this was not true. Records showed that
between 2007 and 2009, CPS was contacted
many times with claims
either neglect or abuse by both of these
parents, however, none of the claims were
ever found to be true:
level of dysfunction was high, but we did
not deem the child at
eminent risk while in
her mothers care"
stated that they investigate many cases
where parents accuse each other of abuse
and it turns out to be false.
brother and a child born while Jessica was
in jail, were being cared for by a
of 2012, people began to wonder where
Savannah's biological parents were.
Savannah's father, Robert,
full custody of her and had been working
over seas at the time of her death. A
court date had been set
March of 2012 in which Heather, Savannah's
mother, was going to try to get back
custody of her. In the month
December 2011, Heather had been ordered to
go to a psyche evaluation and Savannah was
to stay in
custody of her father unless it was
changed during the upcoming court date.
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
Joyce didn't say anything during the
hearing and when she was lead away, Dani
Bone asked people to pray for her:
has faith in the system. She has faith
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.
In November of 2014 Joyce Garrard Hardin
was 49 years old when she 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
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
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 trial either.
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 problems. UGH!
Jessica was still out on bond at this
March 23, 2015
In March of 2015, Joyce Hardin Garrard was
found guilty of capital murder and was
facing the death penalty. Joyce showed no
emotion at all as the verdict was read
though some family members were crying.
Heather Walker was in court and made it
clear that she felt Joyce should die for
what she had done to Savannah, saying that
she should not be spared:
personally feel like I see no remorse
and she took away my baby's life"
It was reported that Heather's words were
hard to understand because she was crying.
Heather said that she didn't believe Joyce
had woken up that day with intentions to
kill Savannah, she feels things just got out
think there was a point where she knew
what she was doing"
Heather spoke about the time in the hospital
when the machines keeping Savannah alive
were turned off:
this time, Joyce was screaming at
you just need to breathe"
Sadly, it took only a few minutes to
understand that Savannah was never going to
held her hand until her body stiffened"
Heather spoke of how Joyce had grabbed her
daughter's, Jessica Hardin's, shoulders and
though Jessica was in labor, ready to
deliver, she seemed to want to get her attention
said, Jessica, there's a lot on the
line. You need to pull it together"
Heather said she had been suspicious about
what happened to Savannah and that the
actions of Joyce at that time made her even
more suspicious and uneasy. In court she
said that Savannah had loved cheer leading
and had wanted to become a Veterinarian when
she grew up:
was full of life. She was the sweetest
Occurred in the state of Alabama
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