Forced to run, girl, 9, dies in punishment for eating candy

Nine-year-old Savannah Hardin is dead because she wanted a chocolate bar.

The Alabama girl's stepmother and grandmother found out that she'd eaten the candy without permission, according to police, and punished her by making her run for three hours while they looked on. The third-grader suffered seizures and died.

Hours after being arrested in connection with the girl's death, the stepmother gave birth. She remains under guard at an Alabama hospital.

The Associated Press is reporting that prosecutors may seek the death penalty.

Here's what happened, according to the Etowah County Sheriff's Department:

Savannah Hardin was forced to run outside her home on Friday afternoon after admitting that she'd eaten a candy bar that a friend had given her on the bus. As punishment, her paternal grandmother, Joyce Hardin Garrard, 46, and her stepmother, Jessica Hardin, 27, made the girl run around the yard from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

About 45 minutes later, the stepmother called 911 to report that the girl was convulsing. The girl was rushed to the hospital and remained there until Monday when she died, due in part to dehydration, authorities said.

"She was 65 pounds, and basically she was caused to undergo physical exertion to the point where she just dehydrated and her electrolyte levels got to the point where she couldn't sustain life," Dist. Atty. Jimmie Harp told WHNT News.

The two women have been charged with murder.

Relatives say the girl had a bladder condition and wasn't supposed to eat chocolate because of its caffeine content. However, another prosecutor in the case told local media there was no evidence of such a preexisting medical condition.

The girl's father is said to be employed by the federal government overseas. Etowah County Sheriff Todd Entrekin told WHNT that the man had to take eight flights to get home so he could see his daughter before she was taken off the respirator keeping her alive.

"Our heart goes out to him," Entrekin told the news station. "He's overseas working for his family and for the government. He comes home and now he's got a daughter dead, a wife in jail, and a mother in jail."

The Associated Press is also reporting that child welfare authorities have stepped in to oversee the care of the newborn, as well as the girl's 3-year-old brother, Harp.


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