SAVANNAH HARDIN WAS FORCED TO RUN FOR 3 HOURS BEFORE COLLAPSING AND DYING FOR EATING A CANDY BAR – Updated 03.13.2013 – CCA0028
Savannah Hardin, 9, was forced to endure an unusual and cruel punishment that led to her death. The little girl was forced to run laps around her home carrying ten pounds of fire wood, with no fluids until she collapsed. Authorities say she was running for three hours before her little body gave out. Now what could POSSIBLY create cause for this type of punishment, no torture, – well Savannah lied to her grandmother, Joyce Hardin Garrad, 46, and what about? – eating candy bars. As a mother I enforce a strict no lying policy in my home, as most parents do. And you know what, my boys still lie on occasion (strange, I know). Some of my more favorite lies include, “All the frogs in the bathtub crawled up from the drain, honest!”, “My brothers wanted me to shave my initials in to their hair!” (Luckily they all have the same initials), and the one to top it all from my 5-year old, who seems to have the same warped sense of humor as me, “The voices in my head told me to do it!”. I go about punishment a little differently then these monsters however, I implore the time out method, the no TV for X amount of time method, and similar general accepted methods to alter a child’s behavior without killing them. Garrad was captured on a school bus videotape when she yanked Savannah off the bus, saying she planned to run the child “til she can’t run no more”. She sure accomplished that, Savannah will never run again.
To make matters worse (if they can get worse), Garrad was not the only one involved in the punishment. Savannah’s stepmother, Jessica May Hardin, 27, watched as the little girl was forced to continue running and did nothing to intervene. Hardin finally called emergency services after Savannah began to have seizures and became unresponsive shortly after collapsing. Savannah was air-lifted to the local children’s hospital, where sadly, she died on February 20, 2012 – three days after the incident occurred. Records cite the cause of death as ‘extreme dehydration’ and classified her death as a homicide. The little girl was also had extremely low sodium levels, which at a healthy level help to prevent seizures. Autopsy photos clearly show marks on Savannah’s arms where the logs dug into her skin. Doctors have stated that Savannah showed the same fatigue as if an adult athlete had been forced to run a marathon without drinking water.
Neighbors had noticed Savannah running around the house and became suspicious, they contacted authorities who also found the situation abnormal and concerning (understatement much??). The little girl’s father, Robert Hardin, was overseas working as a State Department contractor at the time, but flew home as soon as he heard the devastating news. He later made the decision to remove his daughter from life support. Heather Hardin, Savannah`s mother, rushed to the hospital and was able to see her daughter before she passed away.
Garrad and Hardin were both arrested for capital murder, and jailed on a $500,000.00 cash bond. Garrad potentially faces the death penalty if convicted. While in custody, Hardin gave birth to her second child with Savannah’s father. The defense contends that neither woman did anything intentional to cause the little girl’s death, which they say was the result of an unspecified medical problem. (Uhhh, pardon?) It was quickly determined that Savannah`s bladder condition (Yup, BLADDER) had not played a part in her death. During the hearing, Robert Hardin sat at the defense table in apparent support of his mother and wife.
Sadly it is coming to light that Savannah’s life was in turmoil long before her murder (yes, I am calling it murder). Divorce and custody documents filed in family court over a period of several years reflect a history of fractured family relationships, with Savannah’s divorced parents fighting over her welfare; claims of mental instability and abuse between her father and his second wife. Robert Hardin and Savannah’s biological mother, Heather Hardin, divorced in July 2006 when Savannah was 3. The couple shared custody of Savannah, but Heather was the primary care giver. Both parents later moved separately to Florida. Robert Hardin claimed Heather was unfit to care for Savannah. The Florida Department of Children and Families (refer to our article regarding the Florida Department of Children and Families – their record is quite disturbing) investigated allegations that Savannah was being mistreated or was living in hazardous conditions at least four times between 2007 and 2009 while living with Heather in Plant City, Florida. Investigators were never able to find evidence to support the allegations however. In October 2009, Savannah came to live with her father and his then fiancee, Jessica Hardin, whom he later married. The two auickly split in July 2010, with Robert claiming Jessica had bipolar disorder and alcoholic tendencies, and with Jessica claiming Robert mentally and physically abused her, including pushing her into a wall and throwing her on a sofa. Despite all of the accusations, the couple reconciled in 2010. There was no shortage of drama and trauma in Savannah`s life prior to her death. The little girl also suffered medical problems that required frequent doctor visits and trips to an urologist every few months. She was also in counseling, all while somehow managing to remain among the top students in her third-grade class.
Savannah’s class mates and neighbors have created a memorial for the little girl along a fence surrounding the mobile home the little girl resided in. One neighbor recalled how her grandson had asked Savannah to be his girlfriend on Valentine’s Day, and she had said yes, with tears coming to her eyes. It is such a sad reminder of the innocence stolen from a beautiful little girl. At the school Savannah attended, her desk was brought into the main hallway, were students placed letters and hand drawn pictures in remembrance of a friend lost. School Principal Linda Johnson stated ‘Savannah was a happy child at school. She always wore a smile, and often brightened the day of teachers and administrators with her kind comments.’ Many who knew Savannah described her as normal and happy. She played and laughed with other kids at the bus stop, they said. She loved horses and her favorite colors were lime green, hot pink and ocean blue.
Media attention surrounding the case has hit an all time high as people from all over the world debate what happened, and who is responsible. Facebook pages have been created in support of Savannah, and some in support of her killer, Garrad. The circulation of facts and speculation surrounding the case has created such a stir, that Judge Billy Ogletree has ordered a Gag Order to be put into effect. Lawyers and anyone else involved in this case are banned from discussing the case in any public forum, and concern is being aired regarding the potential contamination of the jury pool in which Savannah’s case has been highly publicized.
There were reports that it seemed that Hardin was in the process of negotiating a plea deal for testifying against Garrad in her trial. Hardin faces a potential life sentence if convicted on her charges. However, no deals have been made in this case as of yet.
Judge Ogeltree did pass a motion to have Hardin’s bond reduced to $150,000.00 property/surety bond. If Hardin makes bail and is released, she will be monitored by the Community Corrections Office in accordance with its pretrial release program. She will also be on house arrest and not allowed to leave the home for any reason unless the courts approve.
We will continue to follow the case as it progresses and stay vigilant in ensuring that justice is served for Savannah Hardin.