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Man gets life for fatally beating 2-year-old: he ‘tortured that poor little girl,’ prosecutor says

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A Virginia man will die in prison after a judge sentenced him to two life terms for bludgeoning little Harper Mitchell and then refusing to get her medical care until it was too late.

A jury convicted Andrew Byrd, 37, in March of aggravated murder, aggravated malicious wounding and a slew of other charges for the slaying of his girlfriend’s 2-year-old daughter in 2020. 

“This is the most serious crime of all the crimes we’ve got on our books,” Commonwealth’s Attorney Chris Rehak said, according to The Roanoke Times. “This defendant tortured that poor little girl.”

On April 16, Byrd was in his Roanoke home, about 200 miles west of Richmond, with Harper and her two siblings while the children’s mom, Amanda Mitchell, was at work. 

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Andrew Byrd, left in mugshot; Harper Mitchell photo at right

Virginia man Andrew Byrd was sentenced to two life terms in prison Friday for fatally beating 2-year-old Harper Mitchell. (New River Valley Regional Jail/ Bradley’s Funeral Home )

When Mitchell returned, her daughter was limp, bruised and cold, but Byrd would not let her call for help, the local newspaper reported. Mitchell testified that he took her phone, strangled her and threatened to kill her children if she took the little girl to the hospital.

All Byrd cared about that night was “getting high” and had no concern for the suffering child he had mortally wounded, Rehak told the judge at his sentencing, according to the outlet.

The next morning, Mitchell said she was able to get her phone and call Byrd’s mother, who dialed 911. Harper was rushed to a hospital, but it was too late. Her family took her off life support three days later. 

Her injuries were so severe that medical examiner Dr. Amy Tharp testified that Harper’s battered body looked like it had been in a severe car wreck. She died of blunt-force trauma to the head. 

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mugshot for Amanda Mithcell, left; toddler smiling at play, right

Amanda Mitchell’s ex-boyfriend Andrew Byrd was sentenced to life in prison Friday for fatally beating her daughter, Harper Mitchell. Amanda Mitchell is facing charges of child abuse, cruelty and drug possession. (New River Valley Regional Jail / Bradley’s Funeral Home)

Byrd’s lawyers argued that no one witnessed him hit Harper and called the prosecution’s case “wild theories.”

He had a significant history of substance abuse and an addiction to methamphetamine at the time, they added. 

After his arrest, he offered several explanations for Harper’s injuries, including that she may have tumbled down a flight of stairs or fallen off her four-wheeler.

“This is a dangerous, violent liar,” Rehak told the judge Friday, according to the local newspaper. A life sentence is “probably too kind, and too much mercy,” he added.

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2-year-old Harper Mitchell, smiling, left, eating cupcake right

Harper Mitchell, 2, was beaten to death by her mother’s boyfriend in April 2020. (Bradley’s Funeral Home)

The child’s father, TJ Mitchell, told the judge how much he missed his little girl and how difficult it was to take her off life support. 

“No person, let alone a little girl, a little angel, should be hurt,” Circuit Judge Joey Showalter said before handing down the sentence.

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Amanda Mitchell has pending charges for child abuse, cruelty and drug possession. Byrd faces additional charges stemming from the alleged abuse of Mitchell’s boys. 

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