March 21, 2015
An Alabama jury on Friday convicted a woman of murdering her granddaughter by forcing the 9-year-old to run back and forward in a yard carrying wood for almost three hours as punishment, according to a spokeswoman for the local sheriff's office.
"There was a verdict in the case - guilty of capital murder," said Natalie Barton, director of communicationsfor the Etowah County Sheriff's Office.
Joyce Garrard, 49, was accused of making Savannah Hardin run nonstop at her home in 2012 for lying about having eaten forbidden chocolates, a prosecutor said at her trial.
The girl collapsed, went into seizures and died days later in hospital from dehydration and low sodium, authorities said.
Etowah County assistant district attorney Marcus Reid told the jury during opening statements that Garrard acted like Sergeant Vince Carter, the drill instructor in the TV series Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C..
He said Garrard gave different accounts about what had happened when police and paramedics arrived at the home: that the girl had fallen in the yard, that she had a seizure, or had a neurological problem.
Defense attorney Dani Bone argued that Hardin did not die as a result of dehydration but had retained too much water in her body.
The girl suffered from unspecified medical issues that resulted in frequent visits to doctors, according to court documents.
Garrard lost a request to move the trial to a venue where the case is less well known.
Garrard said in a conversation with the driver captured on a bus video "she's going to run till I tell her to stop," as punishment.
Hardin had a bladder condition and was not allowed to have anything containing caffeine, Garrard told the bus driver.
The child's stepmother, Jessica Mae Hardin, has also been charged with murder for allegedly witnessing the punishment and failing to intervene.
Sentencing for Garrard is set for Monday.