Savannah Hardin
February 6, 2003 - February 21, 2012
Find A Grave Memorial 

"I'm 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.

Savannah Hardin 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 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?

"You've 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

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:

"Don't 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 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 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:

"From what I see, her biological mother treated her fairly, treated her kindly"

Working 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.


"Basically, she 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 life"
District Attorney - Jimmie Harp

A 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:

"The 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
to clearing her name"

Funny 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 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 has done"

Morgan Cunningham, one of Jessica's lawyers had this to say:

"At this time Jessica Hardin is incredibly devastated over Savannah's death. Unfortunately,
whenever a child passes away our society wants to place blame; our media wants to
sensationalize and our elected officials want to make grandiose statements that are not
based in fact. We ask that the public not make judgments based upon rumors and assumptions
and allow the judicial process to run its course at which time we believe Jessica Hardin's
innocence will be established."

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 the intent 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:

In the years before her death, life was not always easy for Savannah. There were 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
to say there was a high level of dysfunction in the household"
Terri 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 while
in her mothers care"
Terri Durdaller - DFC

DCF stated that they investigate many cases where parents accuse each other of abuse and it turns out to be false.
Savannah's half brother and a child born while Jessica was in jail, were being cared for by a relative.

In 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 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 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.

UPDATE: November 13, 2014

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 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 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 time.

UPDATE: 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:

"I 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 of hand:

"I 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:

"During this time, Joyce was screaming at Savannah saying,
Savannah, you just need to breathe"

Sadly, it took only a few minutes to understand that Savannah was never going to breathe again:

"I 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 really badly:

"She 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:

"She was full of life. She was the sweetest little girl"

Death Occurred in the state of Alabama

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