State steps in to protect murder suspect's children - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

State steps in to protect murder suspect's children

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Savannah Hardin's yearbook photo. She was a 3rd grader at Carlisle Elementary School. Savannah Hardin's yearbook photo. She was a 3rd grader at Carlisle Elementary School.
Jessica Hardin and Joyce Garrard are charged with killing 9-year-old Savannah Hardin. Jessica Hardin and Joyce Garrard are charged with killing 9-year-old Savannah Hardin.
ETOWAH COUNTY, AL (WAFF) -

The state is taking steps to protect the children of a woman who is in jail for the murder of her 9-year-old step daughter. 

The state has been asked to create a safety plan for the three-year-old brother and for the newborn Savannah Hardin's stepmom, Jessica Hardin, delivered in the hospital this week.

Savannah Hardin died Monday, three days after her 27-year-old stepmom and grandmother allegedly forced her to run non-stop for three hours.

Jessica Mae Hardin is still in the hospital under guard after giving birth to a baby. Once she leaves the hospital, she'll have her first court appearance on the murder charge.

She and her stepdaughter's grandmother, Joyce Hardin Garrard, are being held on $500,000 bond.

A judge sealed court documents pertaining to the death of Savannah until 5 p.m. Monday. The Etowah County District Attorney will meet with investigators, medical examiners and witnesses Friday to go over the case.

They will determine whether to upgrade charges to capital murder early next week.

Hardin's attorneys, Morgan Cunningham and Vincent Pentecost issued the following statement:

"At this time Jessica Hardin is incredibly devastated over Savannah's death. unfortunately whenever a child passes away our society wants to place blame. Our media wants to sensationalize and our elected officials want to make grandiose statements that are not based in fact. We ask that the public not make judgments based upon rumors and assumptions and allow the judicial process to run its course at which time we believe Jessica Hardin's innocence will be established."

Prosecutors and defense attorneys say they haven't seen a case like this before, and one with a strong emotional toll on the families.

Savannah's father flew home from Afghanistan when his daughter was admitted to the hospital.

It's not just the families who are dealing with tough times because of Savannah's death. Her classmates are, too.

Teachers at her school in Mountainboro paid tribute to the 9-year-old. They covered her desk in pictures and cards. Some students even wrote stories for the memorial.

The funeral home handling Savannah's arrangements say information about the funeral is private and it will not be released to the media.


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