In child death case, defense to argue Norfolk mother suffered from battered woman syndrome


NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A lawyer for a Norfolk mother accused in the murder of her 2-year-old daughter says her past may have influenced her actions in the case.

Defense attorneys filed a motion in the case, but it was continued Thursday in Norfolk Circuit Court. 

In the motion, the defense is going to argue that Shelby Love was suffering from battered woman syndrome, and this was what made her be involved with the little girl’s death.

In April 2018, a judge denied bond for Love and her boyfriend, John Hardee.

Now, both are charged with felony murder and felony child abuse in connection to 2-year-old Harley’s death.

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They were arrested in April after police responded to their East Ocean View apartment and found Harley unresponsive. Doctors said the young girl died at the hospital. 

According to the motion, Love arrived home from work and saw her daughter had been badly burned by Love’s abusive boyfriend, Hardee.

It also goes on to say Love had several traumas in her life, including two previous rapes. The motion says those incidents quote ‘informed her decision to be in a physically and mentally abusive relationship with Hardee.”

Love’s lawyer is asking for a mental health expert evaluation, and if appropriate, testimony at trial. 

According to Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Jill Harris, there are pictures showing burns covering 30 to 50 percent of Harley’s body.

In April, Harris told the judge that at 4:29 p.m. on April 23, Hardee texted Love at work “I’m going to prison.”

At 4:41 p.m. he texted again, telling Love she should “hurry home.”

But Love and Hardee did not call for help. Instead, they placed vinegar-soaked rags on Harley’s burns, and waited 11 hours before getting medical help, Harris said. 

Harley was having seizures by the time medical help arrived, and died shortly after arriving to the emergency room, according to a doctor involved with the case. 

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