Stepmom gives birth after arrest in girl's death

Alabama officials have taken steps to keep safe the children of a woman arrested in the death of her 9-year-old stepdaughter who was forced to run for three hours, including creating a provision for a baby the stepmom gave birth to hours after being taken into custody.

The state Department of Human Resources has been asked to create a safety plan for Jessica Mae Hardin’s newborn as well as her 3-year-old son, said Etowah County District Attorney Jimmie Harp. The older child has been placed with a relative and the plan is for the infant to be given to the same relative after the baby leaves the hospital, department spokesman Barry Spear said.

Hardin, 27, was under guard at a hospital on Thursday after giving birth. She and her mother-in-law, Joyce Hardin Garrard, 46, were charged on Wednesday with murder in the death of Savannah Hardin. Authorities say the girl died on Monday after she was forced to run on February 17 as punishment for lying about eating a candy bar.

The girl had a bladder condition common to young girls that meant she shouldn’t have chocolate because of the caffeine content. There is no evidence the condition contributed to her death, Harp said. Preliminary reports show she was extremely dehydrated and had a very low sodium level.

Harp said he may pursue capital murder charges, which carry a possible death sentence, and may have a decision in a day or two. Bond for Hardin and Garrard has been set at $500,000 each.

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