Joyce Garrard collapsed Sunday in prison, following a visit from her family, her son's attorney told

By Adam Carlson
February 13, 2016 10:35 AM
Eric T. Wright/The Gadsden Times/AP

A 50-year-old Alabama grandmother and convicted murderer, who authorities said ran her granddaughter to death in 2012, died Friday after apparently suffering a heart attack, the Alabama Department of Corrections confirms to PEOPLE.

“Alabama inmate Joyce Garrard was pronounced deceased at an Alabama hospital at 5:23 p.m. on Friday, Central Standard Time,” Bob Horton, the Public Information Officer for the Alabama Dept. of Corrections said in a statement to PEOPLE. “On Feb. 7, Garrard collapsed at the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka, Ala. Garrard was was airlifted to an Alabama hospital where she died five days later.

“The cause of death is not known at this time,” Horton added.

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Garrard was convicted in March 2015 of capital murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole, in the death of 9-year-old Savannah Hardin.

Authorities said Garrard forced Hardin to run for more than three hours, while carrying firewood, as punishment for lying about eating candy.

Garrard, and her family, have maintained that she would never have intentionally injured Hardin.

“It’s all wrong,” Garrard’s husband, Johnny, told reporters outside the courtroom following her sentencing, according to The Huntsville Times. “It’s all wrong. She’s innocent of this.”

But prosecutors disputed that defense, citing a surveillance tape from the school bus in which Garrard can be overheard saying of Hardin, “She’s going to run until I tell her to stop … I don’t play with her.”

Hardin’s stepmother, Jessica, has been accused of murder in the girl’s death, for allegedly failing to intervene, and is currently awaiting trial.