Miss. Man Gets Death for Torturing, Murdering 2-Year-Old Stepson Because Boy Took Too Long to Find Juice Box

Joseph David Heard was convicted of the murder of Hayden Lee Bataille

<p>Harrison County Sheriff

Harrison County Sheriff's Office

Joseph David Heard

Content warning: The following article contains disturbing descriptions of child abuse.

A Mississippi man was sentenced to death after he was convicted of torturing and murdering his 2-year-old stepson.

Hayden Lee Bataille, the stepson of Joseph David Heard, 41, died after his mother called 911, saying the boy was found unresponsive on Dec. 27, 2021, according to reports from the Sun Herald, WLOX and WXXV, citing authorities.

Heard and the toddler’s mother, Hailey Heard, were arrested in the aftermath of Hayden’s death and were initially charged with felony child abuse, WXXV reported, but the charged were upgraded to murder after police said they found bruises on the child.

The outlets reported that an autopsy ruled that Hayden died as a result of suffocation and suffered several injuries, including to the head.

Last May, Hailey Heard pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and testified at Joseph’s trial, which concluded last week, WLOX reported.

During her testimony, Hailey said Hayden had soiled his diaper and took too long to get a juice box from the refrigerator before Joseph got angry and began punching him in the chest and head repeatedly, the Sun Herald and WLOX reported.

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

The outlet also reported that texts between Joseph and Hailey revealed that he bragged about beating Hayden in the months leading up to the boy's death.

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The Sun Herald reported that an emergency room doctor who attended to Hayden testified during the trial.

“It was one of the most horrific scenes I’ve witnessed as an ER doctor,” Dr. Leanne Lee said, per the paper. “I had never seen a kid that had sustained so much trauma.”

Joseph was convicted of capital murder and was sentenced to death, while Hailey is serving life in prison, the outlets reported.

If you suspect child abuse, call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child or 1-800-422-4453, or go to www.childhelp.org. All calls are toll-free and confidential. The hotline is available 24/7 in more than 170 languages.

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