Trigger Warning: Child Abuse
Norfolk Woman Sentenced to 15 Years in Prison for Neglect, Homicide After Toddler's 2018 Scalding Death
NORFOLK, Va. – A Norfolk judge sentenced 29-year-old Shelby Rae Love to 15 active years in prison for the neglect and subsequent felony homicide of her 2-year-old, Harley Williams. Ms. Love left Harley in the care of her boyfriend, John Tucker Hardee, who scalded Harley. Ms. Love and Mr. Hardee failed to get Harley medical care, and Harley died as a result. Mr. Hardee, 38, was sentenced in May to 35 active years in prison for his part in this crime.
On April 23, 2018, Mr. Hardee was home alone with Harley while Ms. Love was at work. At some point that afternoon, Mr. Tucker scalded Harley in the bathtub and inflicted third-degree burns to 30 percent of her body, including to her back, extremities, and left ear. Mr. Hardee texted Ms. Love around 4:30 p.m. to leave work and hurry home, and she arrived at their 20th Bay Street apartment around 5:20 p.m.
Upon Ms. Love's arrival, Mr. Hardee claimed Harley was burned because the bathtub water was too hot. Ms. Love did not believe the burns were significant and so, rather than take Harley to the hospital, the pair attempted to treat Harley for the next several hours with a combination of Tylenol, gauze, Pedialyte, lidocaine and apple cider vinegar. Only at 3:30 a.m., after Harley was unresponsive, shaking, and breathing laboredly, did Mr. Hardee call 911.
When medics arrived, Harley was having a seizure, and her skin was sloughing off where Mr. Hardee had scalded her and where Mr. Hardee and Ms. Love had applied lidocaine and vinegar. Harley was pronounced dead shortly after being transported to the Children's Hospital of the King's Daughters. Harley's autopsy also revealed blunt force injuries throughout her body, including a 7-inch bruise to the back of her head and a large bruise to her abdomen accompanied by an internal injury to her small intestine. There was also a toxic amount of lidocaine in Harley’s blood. A subsequent autopsy showed that Harley would likely have lived had her mother and Mr. Hardee gotten her prompt medical care.
Because of the severity of Ms. Love’s neglect, Ms. Love was indicted for child abuse or neglect and felony homicide on Nov. 7, 2018. She pleaded guilty to both charges on Oct. 28, 2020, and Judge David W. Lannetti accepted her plea.
Today, Judge Lannetti sentenced Ms. Love to an active sentence of 15 years in prison, with 15 additional years suspended conditioned upon her uniform good behavior and completion of indeterminate supervised probation following her release from prison.
Following a July 2022 bench trial, Judge John R. Doyle III found Mr. Hardee guilty of child abuse or neglect, malicious wounding, and felony homicide. Judge Doyle sentenced Mr. Hardee in May 2023 to 35 active years in prison, with 10 additional suspended years conditioned upon Mr. Hardee completing 10 years of supervised probation upon his release.
"Shelby Love very likely could have saved her daughter Harley," said Commonwealth’s Attorney Ramin Fatehi. "Instead, Ms. Love covered for the man who severely burned her daughter, and Ms. Love inflicted terrible pain in her daughter’s last hours. Ms. Love will spend the next 15 years in prison. Hopefully her role in the death of her daughter will be on her conscience forever."
Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Cynthia D. Collard led the prosecution of Ms. Love's and Mr. Hardee's cases on behalf of the Commonwealth.
If you have or someone you love has fallen victim to crime, including but not limited to domestic abuse, resources are available at the Norfolk Family Justice Center. For more information, please visit norfolkfjc.org, call 757-330-0376 or stop by the NFJC inside the Park Place Multi-Services Center at 606 W. 29th St., between 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. on weekdays. If you are in crisis, call the 24/7 hotline by dialing 757-251-0144. In an emergency, please call 911.