Mississippi man handed death sentence for fatal beating of 2-year-old stepson

Francis Akhalbey May 15, 2024
Joseph David Heard, 41, was found guilty of capital murder -- Photo Credit: Harrison County Sheriff's Office

A 41-year-old Mississippi man was sentenced to death for torturing and murdering his 2-year-old stepson after he got angry because the minor had soiled his diaper and delayed in getting a juice box from the kitchen.

According to WLOX, the punishment was handed out to Joseph David Heard after he was found guilty of capital murder. Joseph’s wife, Hailey Leann Heard, was also implicated in the murder of her son Hayden Lee Bataille. She, however, reached a plea agreement for a reduced first-degree murder charge. The plea agreement saw her testifying against her husband.

Hayden’s body was found in Biloxi on December 27, 2021, and Joseph and Hailey were subsequently arrested in connection with his killing in January 2022. Hailey called 911 on the morning of her son’s death to report that it seemed the minor had drowned in the bathtub after she found him unresponsive. Hayden was later pronounced dead at a hospital. 

An upgraded capital murder charge was ultimately brought against the couple after authorities established the injuries the deceased toddler had suffered on his body stemmed from him being subjected to abuse. Joseph and Hailey initially faced a charge of felony child abuse.

An investigator who took the stand on May 9 told the court that Hailey spoke with investigators and admitted that Joseph punched her son several times while holding the victim’s arms in one hand, WLOX reported. Hailey also admitted to later covering her son’s mouth to subdue his crying.

Hailey also testified on May 10. She said that before the fatal incident, her son had soiled his diaper and also delayed to grab a juice box from the kitchen. This is said to have angered Joseph, causing him to abuse the minor physically. Joseph also told the court he had temper issues.

“He was a two-year-old punished for soiling a diaper and crying,” Assistant District Attorney George Huffman said. “He was beaten for being a child.”

Joseph subjecting Hayden to abuse was said to be incessant. He also usually sent text messages to Hailey in which he bragged about physically abusing Hayden. That was when he was the minor’s primary caretaker.

“A child should be loved and supported by his parents,”  District Attorney W. Crosby Parker said. “Two-year-old Hayden Bataille was beaten and killed for doing what two-year-olds do. The brutal and heinous killing of Hayden called for the maximum punishment under Mississippi law. We commend the Harrison County jury for agreeing with us.”

Hailey was sentenced to life in prison after taking the plea agreement.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: May 15, 2024


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