An Alabama grandmother said she just wanted to teach her granddaughter a lesson, but what happened has left a family torn apart and grieving. The case made headlines around the world, and the tragic conclusion doesn't feel like justice at all.
Back in 2012 9-year-old Savannah Garrad helped herself to a handful of candy at her grandmother's house. Her grandma, 49-year-old Joyce Garrad, had a reputation as a hard woman. Intimidating and abusing those around her - perhaps this was why Savannah told a lie. Her grandmother hated when she lied.
Savannah denied taking the candy, but Joyce didn't believe her. She decided to teach her granddaughter a lesson. She sent her outside into the Alabama heat and told her to pick up the sticks laying around the yard.
When Savannah had an armful of sticks her grandmother told her to start running. She never let her stop.
For 3 hours Savannah ran, denied rest and water, carrying those sticks.
Later, when Savannah was on life support at the local hospital, a witness came forward. He saw the girl running, but didn't know enough to stop it.
"Oh yea, I witnessed boot camp. I witnessed the drill sergeant from hell," he said.
Before Joyce would give the order for Savannah to stop running, the girl collapsed in the yard, shaking violently as her grandmother looked on. The seizures continued as paramedics were finally called.
She spent the rest of her life, 3 short days, in a coma on life support. The cause of death was labelled as "prolonged physical exertion." A coroner would testify that the girl had dangerously low sodium levels which caused the seizures, and ultimately her death.
Joyce was arrested and charged with Capital murder. Savannah's stepmother Jessica Hardin was also charged for failing to stop the abuse.
While on trial Joyce showed almost no emotion. She tried to explain her actions as "coaching." At one point she said "she kept coming in second place. So we were outside practicing in the yard and I don't know what happened."
Evidence and witnesses at the scene painted a different picture. One where Savannah, having just thrown up and crying begged her grandmother to let her stop running.
Through tearful witness testimony the grandmother sat stone-faced.
Joyce's lawyers had argued that what happened was a tragic accident that was unforeseeable. Assistant District Attorney Carol Griffith didn't mince words when talking about Savannah. "She was tortured," she told the jury. Asking that they return of verdict of intentional homicide.
The jury returned that verdict in just 3 hours. She was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The woman had no reaction when the verdict was read, although her family behind her burst into tears. She was taken to prison to live out the rest of her days, but no one could have known how short a sentence that would be.
Just under 1 year into her life-long term Joyce Garrad collapsed after having suffered a heart attack. She finally died 5 days later.
Many people flooded message boards saying that the murderous grandmother got what she deserved, but for the family of Savannah, it's another loss to grieve.