9-year-old girl dies after being forced to run
ATTALLA, Ala. (AP) — Roger Simpson said he looked down the road and saw a little girl running outside her home but didn’t give it another thought. Police, however, said the man witnessed a murder in progress.
Authorities say 9-year-old Savannah Hardin died after being forced to run for three hours as punishment for having lied to her grandmother about eating candy bars. Severely dehydrated, the girl had a seizure and died days later. Now, her grandmother and stepmother who police say meted out the punishment were taken to jail Wednesday and face murder charges.
Witnesses told deputies Savannah was told to run and not allowed to stop for three hours on Friday, an Etowah County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman said. The girl’s stepmother, 27-year-old Jessica Mae Hardin, called police at 6:45 p.m., telling them Savannah was having a seizure and was unresponsive.
Simpson said he saw a little girl running at around 4 p.m., but didn’t see anybody chasing or coercing her.
“I saw her running down there, that’s what I told the detectives,” Simpson said from his home on a hill overlooking the Hardins. “But I don’t see how that would kill her.”
Authorities are still trying to determine whether Savannah was forced to run by physical coercion or by verbal commands. Deputies were told the girl was made to run after lying to her grandmother, 46-year-old Joyce Hardin Garrard, about having eaten the candy, sheriff’s office spokeswoman Natalie Barton said.
Savannah Hardin died Monday at Children’s Hospital in Birmingham, according to a news release from the sheriff’s office. The sheriff’s release said an autopsy report showed the girl was extremely dehydrated and had a very low sodium level. A state pathologist ruled it a homicide.
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