ATTALLA, Ala. (AP) — Roger Simpson said he looked down the road and saw a little girl running outside her home but didn't give it another thought. Police, however, said the man witnessed a murder in progress.
Simpson said he saw a little girl running at around 4 p.m., but didn't see anybody chasing or coercing her.
"I saw her running down there, that's what I told the detectives," Simpson said from his home on a hill overlooking the Hardins. "But I don't see how that would kill her."
Savannah Hardin died Monday at Children's Hospital in Birmingham, according to a news release from the sheriff's office. The sheriff's release said an autopsy report showed the girl was extremely dehydrated and had a very low sodium level. A state pathologist ruled it a homicide.
The couple said they were used to seeing Savannah and other neighborhood children out waiting on the school bus in the morning. Gail Denny said her grandson had a crush on Savannah.
"My grandson asked her to be his girlfriend on Valentine's Day, and she said 'yes,'" she said before dissolving into tears. She left a candle and stuffed animal outside the girl's home Wednesday night, saying a prayer as she paused beside the road.
Garrard and Jessica Mae Hardin are being held in the Etowah County Detention Center, each on a $500,000 cash bond.
Five months after filing for divorce, the two asked a judge to dismiss their case.
Savannah Hardin was a third-grader at Carlisle Elementary School. Superintendent Alan Cosby said her desk had been turned into a makeshift memorial where her classmates could leave notes and mementos. He said counselors and social workers were made available for students.