The recent story from West Virginia of an eight-year-old girl jumped from a second-story window and walked barefoot and alone late at night to seek food has stirred shock, outrage, and sorrow across the nation.
On July 7th, at approximately 10:30 pm, the unnamed girl walked into a Family Dollar store in Arnoldsburg, West Virginia. With no shoes or socks and carrying a teddy bear, she told two night shift clerks that she had barely eaten in three days.
The employees were heartbroken as they heard her story and provided her with several snacks including pizza, cereal, candy bars while waiting for police to arrive.
The girl reportedly stated that she intended to walk to a friend’s house after stopping by the store but was prevented from doing so by the employees due to safety concerns.
Upon arrival of officers at her residence, they discovered her father Ryan Keith Hardman, and stepmother Ellio M. Hardman both aged 33 present along with her three siblings in the home.
The Blaze reported:
According to the criminal complaint, the girl told police that “her parents told her she had an attitude and when they think she has an attitude, they tell her she’s not being good and they don’t want her.” She claimed that her 12-year-old sister gave her a peanut butter and jelly sandwich sometime during the day on July 6 but that otherwise, she had had nothing to eat in three days. The sister seemed to corroborate the story, claiming that the 8-year-old was sometimes forced to suffer that way for up to a week at a time.
The 8-year-old also explained to police that she often eats only once a day and is mainly forced to stay in her room all day. She is forbidden from going downstairs except to use the bathroom, reports said. She expressed to police that she did not want to remain at home with her parents.
When officers asked how she got outside that night, she reportedly pointed to a second-story window. She claimed that she had removed a screen and then dangled from the ledge before jumping to the ground. Her foot hit part of an air conditioning unit, she said, after confirming to police that the jump had “hurt.”
Investigators found “small hand prints left on the vinyl siding as the hands slid down from the second story window,” the complaint said. They also found an area on the ground that appeared to have been disturbed, possibly by the child’s jump.
Inside the home, they found plenty of food “for the entire family.” They also allegedly found a substance that appeared to be marijuana and various drug paraphernalia. The Hardmans supposedly told police that the girl had escaped from the home before but did not appear to know that she had gone missing that evening.
Ryan and Ellio Hardman have been charged with felony gross neglect of a child creating a risk of injury or death, Law&Crime reported. They are each in custody in the Central Regional Jail on a cash-only $100,000 bond.
All four children have been placed in the care of Child Protective Services. The 8-year-old girl received treatment for minor leg injuries.