NORFOLK, Va. — A Virginia man was sentenced Friday to decades in prison for the 2018 death of his girlfriend’s 2-year-old daughter, delaying medical help for hours after she had been scalded severely.
Norfolk Circuit Judge Jack Doyle issued the sentence to John Tucker Hardee, 38, of Norfolk, for his role in the death of Harley Williams, news outlets reported. Hardee was convicted last summer of second-degree murder, felony child neglect and malicious wounding.
The girl’s mother, Shelby Love, pleaded guilty in 2020 to felony homicide and child neglect for her involvement in the girl’s death. Her sentencing is next month. Hardee was sentenced to 45 years in prison, of which 10 years are suspended. He’ll also have to serve 10 years of supervised probation once he’s released.
Love testified during Hardee’s trial that she left her daughter frequently with Hardee — with whom she had been living for about two months — while she was at work. On April 23, 2018, Love came home and said Hardee told her that Harley was burned by hot bath water.
Love said she wanted to call 911, but Hardee wouldn’t let her because he was concerned he would go to prison. Fearful for her safety, she said she agreed not to call, and that they began to try to treat Harley with petroleum jelly, bandages, cream and medicine. Hardee ultimately called 911 after Harley started having trouble breathing. She was pronounced dead at a Norfolk hospital.
A pathologist who conducted an autopsy determined Harley died from complications of scalding, with several bruises on her body and large abrasions on her scalp.
“Little Harley lived her last hours in agony. Had she gotten medical help, she might have lived. Instead, she suffered and she died,” Norfolk Commonwealth Attorney Ramin Fatehi said.
Hardee, who was previously convicted of child abuse in Virginia Beach, told Doyle before sentencing that “there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t wish we" made different decisions. But he also blamed a faulty hot water heater for the burns.