NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – More than five years after a 2-year-old girl was burned and abused so badly she died, the person responsible for her injuries has been sentenced.
John Tucker Hardee, 33, and the child’s mother were arrested in April 2018.
On Friday, May 26, Hardee was sentenced to a total of 45 years in prison on child neglect, malicious wounding and second-degree murder charges, with 10 years suspended. He was convicted last July. Hardee will have 10 years supervised probation when he’s released from prison, and will not be allowed to have any contact with minors.
Norfolk Commonwealth Attorney Ramin Fatehi said, “The crime that the defendant committed against this little girl is one of the worst I have ever seen. My heart breaks for that little girl.”
This case dates back to April 23, 2018. The investigation found Shelby Rae Love, the child’s mother, was at work when she received an urgent text from her live-in boyfriend John Hardee around 4:30 p.m. telling her to leave work and that he was “going to prison.”
Love arrived at their home in East Ocean View almost an hour later.
Hardee told Love that her 2-year-old daughter Harley was burned by hot bath water.
Instead of taking Harley to the hospital, they decided to treat her with Tylenol, gauze, Pedialyte, lidocaine and apple cider vinegar. In the middle of the night, Hardee called 911 when he noticed Harley shaking and having trouble breathing.
Medics arrived to find Harley having a seizure. They also observed her suffering from burns so severe her skin “had begun sloughing off.”
Harley died at Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters in Norfolk shortly after she arrived.
She suffered third-degree burns to 30 percent of her body, mostly to her back, extremities, and left ear. Her autopsy also revealed blunt force injuries throughout her body, including a 7-inch contusion to the back of her head, a large bruise to her abdomen, and an internal injury to her small intestine. There was also a toxic amount of lidocaine in her blood.
The child’s mother was indicted on child abuse or neglect and felony homicide charges in November 2018 for not providing adequate care to her daughter for her injuries. She pleaded guilty to those charges and will be sentenced next month.
“Little Harley lived her last hours in agony. Had she gotten medical help, she might have lived. Instead, she suffered, and she died,” said Fatehi.
Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Cynthia D. Collard led the prosecution of this case.