An Alabama woman convicted of running her 9-year-old granddaughter to death as punishment for lying about candy has been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Joyce Hardin Garrard, the diminutive grandmother whom prosecutors depicted as the "drill sergeant from hell," stood before the judge yesterday and told him if she could have anything in the world, it would be to have her granddaughter Savannah back with her. The 49-year-old gripped the hand of her defense attorney as the judge said he would uphold a jury's recommendation of life without parole, rather than death by lethal injection. Her husband cradled another of the couple's grandchildren as the sentence was read.
Testimony at trial showed that Savannah Hardin collapsed and vomited in 2012 outside her rural home following an afternoon of running and carrying sticks. During the trial, prosecutors said the 9-year-old girl suffered a painful death at the hands of a woman who was supposed to protect her. A life sentence is justified, Etowah County District Attorney Jimmie Harp says, and Garrard is not getting off lightly. "Life without parole in the state of Alabama means you come out of Julia Tutwiler Prison in a pine box," he said after the sentencing. The child's stepmother, Jessica Mae Hardin, is charged with murder and awaiting a separate trial. (Read more Savannah Hardin stories.)