published Thursday, March 1st, 2012

Alabama prosecutors to upgrade charge in girl’s death

  • photo
    Savannah Hardin, 9, died after being forced to run as punishment. Etowah County, Ala., sheriff's officials say 46-year-old Joyce Hardin Garrard of Carlisle and 27-year-old Jessica Mae Hardin are accused of murder in the death of Savannah Hardin. Investigators say Garrard allegedly made the girl run without stopping for there hours as punishment for lying to her.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.


GADSDEN, Ala. (AP) — Alabama prosecutors say they are filing capital murder charges -- which carries the possibility of the death penalty -- against a grandmother accused of running her 9-year-old granddaughter to death as punishment.

Etowah County authorities announced the decision Thursday during a bond hearing for 46-year-old Joyce Garrard. A prosecutor calls her the “drill sergeant from hell” and says a capital murder charge will be filed.

Garrard and 27-year-old Jessica Mae Hardin are charged with murder in the death of 9-year-old Savannah Hardin.

Defense lawyers say both women are innocent and predict they’ll be acquitted. They say the father of the dead girl is supporting the women.

The girl was forced to run for three hours before she collapsed, authorities say. Her father later decided to remove her from life support at a hospital.

The grandmother became angry when Savannah allegedly ate chocolate, because it contains caffeine, and the girl was not supposed to ingest caffeine given her condition, authorities have said.

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