Prosecutors play 911 call of girl they say was run to death
Mar. 10, 2015
GADSDEN, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama woman on trial for murder in her granddaughter's death called out the child's name time after time as the girl lay on the ground after collapsing, but didn't tell medics the girl had run for hours, according to evidence presented Tuesday.
Joyce Hardin Garrard, 49, is heard repeatedly calling the name of 9-year-old Savannah Hardin in the more than 11-minute 911 recording played in an otherwise silent courtroom.
The child's stepmother, Jessica Mae Hardin, told the 911 operator the girl had a seizure. Garrard talked in the background.
"Savannah, open your eyes," Garrard is heard saying.
"Savannah. Savannah," Garrard says.
"How is she doing?" operator Lori Beth Beggs asks.
"We can't get her to come to," Hardin responds.
Garrard's lawyers haven't denied that the girl ran before her collapse, but the defense said the woman had no intention of harming her granddaughter.
Testimony from a paramedic, a school counselor and an investigator who talked to Garrard showed the woman gave at least three different stories about what happened to the child. The woman said she and the girl had collided while racing toward a door; that the girl had a seizure in the living room; and that then child had fallen on stairs outdoors.
The woman never said the child had collapsed after running an extended period, witnesses said.
The recording showed Hardin, who is awaiting trial on a murder charge in the girl's death, never told Beggs the child had been running or that she had any previous medical problems.
Beggs said the information could have been useful to her treatment. Savannah died in a hospital three days later.
A firefighter who came to the scene said Garrard also never told emergency workers the child had been running.
She "was telling us she had a seizure and she was trying to get her to respond," said Justin Hairrell of the Mountainboro Volunteer Fire Department.
The 911 operator said Garrard is heard early in the recording asking for "a smoke" while the child was unconscious. The defense suggested the woman was actually asking for something to cover the child with, like a small a blanket.
"Did she in fact say, 'Give me a throw?'" asked defense lawyer Richard Rhea.
"No. 'Give me a smoke,'" said Beggs.
Neighbor Jolie Jacobs testified that she saw Savannah running and heard Garrard "hollering at her, telling her she better move it," before medics arrived.
"She was crying and begging to stop," Jacobs said.
Savannah fell in apparent exhaustion, still crying, she said.
"Joyce kept telling her to move it," Jacobs said.
Jacobs said she regretted not trying to help the child.
"I wish I had done something a lot sooner," Jacobs said as she blinked away tears.