Jay Reeves, Associated Press
In this image made from video, Joyce Garard is escorted by law enforcement officers to a court hearing in Gadsden, Ala., Tuesday, May 7, 2013.

GADSDEN, Ala. — A judge has sentenced an Alabama woman to life in prison without the possibility of parole in the running death of her 9-year-old granddaughter.

Joyce Hardin Garrard held hands with her defense lawyer as Etowah County Circuit Judge Billy Ogletree handed down the sentence Monday.

Nine-year-old Savannah Hardin collapsed after running and died three days later in 2012. Prosecutors say Garrard made the child run for hours as punishment for a lie about candy.

The 50-year-old grandmother denied that she meant to harm the child. She told jurors the girl was running as practice because she wanted to do better in a race at school.

The jury that convicted Garrard recommended life in prison for the woman but the final decision was up to the judge.