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2 charged in death of Ala. girl forced to run
Stepmom gives birth after arrest in girl’s death
Question of the Day
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — An Alabama woman is under guard at a hospital after she gave birth following her arrest in the death of her 9-year-old stepdaughter, who authorities say was forced to run for three hours as punishment for lying about eating a candy bar.
Jessica Mae Hardin, 27, was transferred from the Etowah County Detention Center to a hospital on Wednesday, sheriff’s office spokeswoman Natalie Barton said. Etowah County District Attorney Jimmie Harp confirmed that Hardin had given birth hours after she was arrested. He said he didn’t know whether the newborn was a boy or a girl.
Roger Simpson, who lives up the hill from the doublewide trailer where Savannah lived with Jessica and her father Robert Hardin, said he saw the girl running in the yard. When emergency vehicles arrived at the home hours later, he said he thought they were there for the pregnant woman.
Alabama law requires people who are arrested to be informed of the charges against them in an initial appearance within 72 hours. Barton said Jessica Hardin’s hearing will likely be held once she is released from the hospital.
Department spokesman Barry Spear says the older child has been placed with a relative, and the plan is for the infant to be given to the same relative when it leaves the hospital. Speak said he could not reveal with whom the children were placed.
Savannah had a bladder condition common to young girls that meant she shouldn’t have chocolate because of the caffeine content, Harp said. He said there is no evidence that the condition contributed to her death.
The girl was taken to Children’s Hospital in Birmingham where she was kept on life support while Robert Hardin, a contractor with the U.S. State Department, took eight flights to return to Alabama.
“It must have been horrible,” Harp said, “especially for what he saw when he got back.”
Her death was ruled a homicide by a state pathologist and preliminary reports show she was extremely dehydrated and had a very low sodium level — a chemical necessary to prevent seizures and dehydration.
Harp said he may pursue capital murder charges, which carry a possible death sentence. He said his office is interviewing neighbors who had seen Savannah running and expects to have a decision on the charges in a day or two.
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