Joyce Garrard, 50, died five days after collapsing at Alabama’s Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women. In 2012, the grandmother was charged and convicted in the death of her 9-year-old granddaughter Savannah Hardin. According to reports, the Garrard forced the child to run around the yard picking up sticks until she collapsed and later died.
On February 17, 2012, Savannah was accused of stealing candy from a classmate at Carlisle Elementary School. As she reportedly lied about the incident, her grandmother punished her by making her run around the yard picking up sticks.
— People Magazine (@people) February 13, 2016
The Washington Post reports the punishment lasted more than three hours. Witnesses said Joyce Garrard refused to let Savannah take a break. Whenever the child attempted to slow down or stop, her grandmother yelled and told her to keep going.
Although neighbors were concerned about the child’s welfare, they did not approach the yard until the little girl suffered a seizure collapsed on the ground.
Witnesses said Savannah Hardin was clearly in distress, as she was crying and vomiting and was unable to stand up. However, Joyce Garrard simply told the child to “get up” and continue running.
More than three hours after the “punishment” began, authorities were called to the scene. Etowah County, Alabama Public Information Officer Natalie Barton confirmed the little girl was unresponsive when emergency crews arrived on scene.
— Cathy (@courtchatter) February 11, 2016
Although she was transported to Birmingham’s Children’s Hospital, the 9-year-old girl was pronounced dead three days later. An autopsy revealed she suffered from severe dehydration and a dangerously low sodium level. The child’s manner of death was determined to be homicide.
Savannah Hardin’s grandmother, Joyce Hardin Garrard, was subsequently arrested and charged with capital murder. Her step-mother, Jessica Mae Hardin, was also charged with murder — as she failed to intervene.
Joyce Garrard was convicted of murder in March 2015. Although she was not given the death penalty, the grandmother was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Less than one year later, Joyce collapsed following a visit with her family. Although she was rushed to a local hospital, the convicted killer remained on life support for five days.
People reports Garrard was pronounced dead on Friday. The official cause of death has not been determined. However, officials said they believe she suffered a heart attack.
Despite her arrest and conviction, Joyce Garrard maintained her innocence until the day she died.
Joyce admitted she punished her granddaughter for lying about the candy bars. However, she contends Savannah’s punishment was to pick up sticks from the yard.
During her criminal trial, Garrard said the 9-year-old girl was running in preparation for a school race. According to Joyce, Savannah placed second in a previous race and simply “wanted to come in first” the next time. The grandmother said she was simply encouraging the child to improve her speed.
Prosecutors argued that Joyce Garrard’s story changed several times prior to and following her arrest. They contend the grandmother told at least one witness she planned to force the child to run as punishment for lying about the candy bars.
CBS News reports Savannah Hardin suffered greatly in her short life, as her parents fought over custody and she suffered from chronic medical issues. However, despite numerous hardships, the little girl maintained a positive outlook.
Carlisle Elementary School Principal Linda Johnson said Savannah Hardin “was an excellent student, earning A’s and B’s.” Johnson also said “Savannah was a happy child at school… she always wore a smile, and often brightened the day of teachers and administration with her kind comments.”
Although Joyce Garrard is now dead, Jessica Hardin is still facing murder charges in her step-daughter’s death.
[Mugshot Image via Inforum]