The murder charge against Joyce Garrard has been officially upgraded to capital murder, Etowah County District Attorney Jimmie Harp said in a statement released Thursday.
"A capital murder warrant was served today on Joyce Garrard, 46, of Attalla, in connection with the death of her granddaughter Savannah Hardin," Harp said.
A charge of capital murder carries the possibility of either life imprisonment or the death penalty.
Garrard is accused of allegedly forcing her nine-year-old granddaughter Savannah to run for three hours as punishment for eating a candy bar until she collapsed from seizures. Savannah died three days later from dehydration.
"At the conclusion of the investigation, we felt that the capital murder charge was supported by the evidence. Now that the warrant has been served, my office will make no further comment on the case against Joyce Garrard. As always, the accused in this case is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law," Harp stated in a release.
The charges against Savannah's stepmother, Jessica Hardin, are still under review by the Etowah County District Attorney's office. Currently Hardin is charged with murder in Savannah's death.
Both Garrard and Hardin appeared in court in Etowah County Thursday for a bond hearing. Their attorneys have asked that their $500,000 cash bonds be reduced. The women are currently being held in the Etowah County Detention Center.
After hearing from the prosecution and defense, Judge William D. Russell is taking the arguments under advisement and will make a ruling at a later date. There is no word yet on when that ruling will be made. The case could go before a grand jury as early as Monday, March 5.
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