By Wayne Hester
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (Reuters) - An Alabama woman convicted of murder for running her granddaughter until she collapsed and died was spared the death penalty when a judge instead sentenced her on Monday to life in prison without the possibility of parole, a court official said.
Joyce Garrard, 50, was convicted in March in the 2012 death of Savannah Hardin, 9, with the jury recommending that she spend the rest of her life in prison.
Garrard made Hardin run for almost three hours while carrying wood as punishment for lying about having eaten chocolates before the girl collapsed and went into seizures, prosecutors have said.
The girl, who lived in Etowah County in northeast Alabama, died days later in hospital from dehydration and low sodium.
Garrard said in a conversation with the girl's school bus driver captured on a bus video that "she's going to run till I tell her to stop," as punishment.
Hardin had a bladder condition and was not allowed to have sweets or caffeine, Garrard told the bus driver.
After the guilty verdict, Etowah County District Attorney Jimmie Harp said he was pleased with the outcome and would ask the Judge William Ogletree to accept the jury's recommended sentence of life in prison.
The girl's stepmother, Jessica Mae Hardin, has also been charged with murder, with authorities saying she witnessed the punishment and failed to intervene.
(Writing by Jonathan Kaminsky; Editing by Lisa Lambert)