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Bond denied for couple charged in toddler death

They've been behind bars since last Tuesday, following the death of Shelby Love's 2-year-old daughter.
Credit: Norfolk Sheriff's Office
John Tucker Hardee (left) and Shelby Love

NORFOLK, Va. (WVEC) -- A mother and her boyfriend will stay behind bars, following a bond hearing on Monday morning.

23-year-old Shelby Love and 33-year-old John Hardee face felony child abuse charges. They were arrested last Tuesday following the death of Love's 2-year-old daughter.

A man called 911 about an unresponsive child just after 3:30 in the morning. He told dispatchers the little girl had been scalded in the tub. Medics rushed her to CHKD, where she died.

Love and Hardee appeared in court Monday for a bond hearing.

During the hearing, the Commonwealth said Hardee was not supposed to have any unsupervised contact with children after he previously beat his 18-month-old son, causing skull fractures.

He is not the biological parent of the child who died.

According to prosecutors, around 4:29 p.m. on April 23, Hardee sent a text to Love saying he was going to jail. He then sent her a message shortly after asking her to "hurry home.”

The mother then returned home. The Commonwealth said text messages were sent from Love's phone to a friend, saying the child received medical care from the hospital and alleged that she was burned by water at a domestic abuse shelter.

Love’s attorney said Hardee took her client's phone when she got home. The lawyer also says Love was abused by Hardee and had tried to leave in the past, and was in fear of her life.

In fact, Love said she fled a domestic abuse situation in her home state of Oklahoma.

Investigators said that for 11 hours, the little girl did not receive any medical care. However, the prosecution said the couple put vinegar on the toddler's wounds. They called 911 when the toddler started to have a seizure around 3:38 am.

An ER doctor told the state the child coded upon arrival at the hospital. A doctor told the Commonwealth the child could have survived if she had been treated earlier. Prosecutors also argued none of her injuries were consistent with accidental injuries.

A detective said Harley’s skin appeared to sloth off her body. The Commonwealth also said she had trauma to head.

In court, Love started crying when she saw the pictures of her daughter.

Judge Laurie Hogg said she was at a loss for words at Monday's hearing, calling it the most horrific crime she’d seen in her 10 years on the bench.

The judge denied bond to both Love and Hardee.

13NewsNow went to the apartment complex where the alleged abuse took place and spoke with neighbors.

“It’s about the saddest thing, I don’t understand how a human can do that to somebody,” said one neighbor.

“You don’t know who your neighbors are, it’s scary to know, you don’t know who your neighbors are,” said neighbor Krista Harden.

Neighbors said what’s most disappointing is finding out Hardee has a history of child abuse.

“His sons would come over, three of them, and apparently he wasn’t even supposed to have them over,” said one neighbor.

“It’s sad that he was allowed to live with a child, it’s crazy,” said Harden.

Harden said there are lots of young children living at the apartment complex, and she’s glad neither of these suspects were granted bond.

“Good, I’m glad, they don’t deserve to be out,” said Harden.

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