The stepmother and grandmother of the third grade student face felony murder charges after the girl was allegedly forced to run around her home for three hours as punishment for lying about eating a candy bar.
Yesterday, Jessica Mae Hardin, 27, and Joyce Hardin Garrard, 46, were arrested by the Etowah County Sherrif's office and charged with the murder of Savannah Hardin, 9. The young girl died in Children's Hospital in Birmingham on Monday.
Natalie Barton, the Etowah County Public Information Officer, told Reuters the girl died from dehydration and low sodium. According to Barton, this condition is frequently seen in marathon runners.
It is alleged that last Friday, Savannah had lied to her grandmother about eating a candy bar. As punishment, Savannah was made to run around the house without stopping for three hours. It is alleged her stepmother knew about the forced run and did nothing to stop it.
As reported by Associated Press, the Etowah County Sheriff's Office received calls from concerned neighbours who saw Savannah running.
At 6:45 Friday evening, Jessica Mae Hardin called police saying her stepdaughter was having seizures. Volunteer firefighters went to the home and rushed the little girl to hospital where she died three days later. Ruby Ward, the vice president of the Mountainboro Volunteer Fire Department was quoted by Reuters as saying, One of the ones who were down there said it didn't feel like everything was right.
In describing the family, neighbour Gail Denny said, It seems like a very happy extended family around here. There are mothers, grandmothers, kids. It sounds like punishment that got out of hand.WAFF TV interviewed representatives of the National Children's Advocacy Center in Huntsville. Although not willing to comment on this specific case, a representative said parents must understand the difference between discipline and punishment. The former is positive while the latter negative and punishment can result in the child's behaviour worsening.
Parents should be calm and not scream or use physical force when disciplining a child. Nor should they get into a power struggle with the child.
Hardin and Garrard are being held in the Etowah County Detention Center on cash bonds of $50,000.