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Exclusive: Norfolk man convicted of killing 2-year-old girl maintains innocence, calls death a horrible accident

In court on Friday, a Norfolk judge granted John Hardee's request for a new lawyer. Hardee said he hopes they can help his case.

NORFOLK, Va. — A Norfolk man convicted of killing a 2-year-old girl is maintaining his innocence.

A judge planned on sentencing John Hardee on Friday for the death of Harley Williams in 2018. But that's now pushed back because Hardee wanted a new lawyer.

Hardee spoke with 13News Now during an exclusive interview after the hearing.

“It is horrible that Harley is gone,” Hardee said. “There is no getting her back. But I can’t go away for the rest of my life for something I didn’t do.”

In July, a judge convicted John Hardee of felony murder, felony child neglect, and malicious wounding for Harley's death.

During previous court hearings, prosecutors said Hardee scalded the little girl with hot water. It happened on April 23, 2018.

But, Hardee said he sat the child in the bathtub and walked away briefly.

“I checked the temperature, and this was literally about 60 to 70 seconds I was away from her, before hearing her yell,” Hardee said.

That’s when Hardee says he grabbed Harley from the tub, noticed burns, and immediately texted her mother.

“I said, ‘OMG I am going to prison hurry home.’”

Prosecutors said Hardee and the child’s mother, Shelby Love, failed to get the child proper care for several hours following the incident. They said the child’s skin was coming off.

That night, Hardee said Love sent him to the drug store to get medical supplies.

Investigators said the couple called 911 around 3:30 a.m. when the child had a seizure. She later died at the hospital.

“I did not murder Harley,” Hardee said. “This was not my intent, no one held her down, no one stopped her mother from taking her to the hospital, none of that.”

Hardee said his apartment had a faulty hot water heater. He said his attorneys didn’t call any witnesses during trial, including an expert who would have testified about the heater, so he asked for a new lawyer.

In court on Friday, a Norfolk judge granted his request. Hardee said he hopes the new lawyer can help his case.

“I can’t go away for the rest of my life for something I didn’t do,” Hardee said. “The proof needs to be out there.”

A new sentencing date for Hardee is not yet set.

Love pleaded guilty to felony murder and child neglect in 2020. She is awaiting her sentencing hearing, which is set for November 18.

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