Joseph Heard: Mississippi man gets death penalty for fatally beating 2-year-old stepson as he took too long to find a juice box

Joseph Heard: Mississippi man gets death penalty for fatally beating 2-year-old stepson as he took too long to find a juice box
Joseph David Heard was found guilty in the 2021 killing of Hayden Lee Bataille (Harrison County Sheriff's Office)

Warning: This article contains a recollection of crime and can be triggering to some, readers’ discretion advised.

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HARRISON COUNTY, MISSISSIPPI: A 41-year-old man from Mississippi landed on death row after being found guilty of fatally beating his two-year-old stepson.

It took the jury just two hours on Friday, May 10, to determine that Joseph David Heard, the defendant, should face the death penalty for the atrocious 2021 killing of Hayden Lee Bataille, according to Law&Crime

The jurors deliberated for 45 minutes before declaring Joseph guilty of first-degree murder on May 9. 

According to records, Hailey Heard, 24, Hayden's mother and Joseph Heard's wife, has already been convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. She testified against her husband during the trial.

Hailey Heard (Harrison County Sheriff's Office)
Hailey Heard got life in prison for the death of her son, Hayden Lee Bataille (Harrison County Sheriff's Office)

Joseph David Heard denies involvement in Hayden Lee Bataille's death

During Thursday's hearing, Joseph denied abusing the child, asserting instead that he tried to save the toddler, who was found in the living room of his parents' apartment struggling to breathe.  

The 41-year-old denied seeing the first bruise on Hayden’s body on the day of his death. But in body camera footage from Biloxi police at the couple’s residence, Joseph acknowledges the bruising and talks about how the toddler's tendency to play rough.

Moreover, prosecutors highlighted a forensic review of his phone, revealing online searches for bruise remedies. He even suggested using banana peels to expedite their fading in a text to his wife.

Joseph's attorney, Donald Rafferty, contended that his wife, Hailey, caused the toddler's death by suffocating him with her hand, as per The Sun Herald.

On the prosecution side, Assistant District Attorney Mara Joffe argued that Hailey was a victim of repeated domestic violence by Joseph, emphasizing, "It's about this defendant, Joseph David Heard, controlling his wife Hailey Heard and his two-year-old stepson Hayden through violence, abuse, and torture."

She noted that the torture and abuse suffered by Hailey and her son "was not isolated but was prolonged."

During the trial, Biloxi police read text messages between Joseph and his wife aloud, revealing his threats aimed toward the child.

Hailey recounted instances where Joseph imposed harsh punishment on her son, including making him stand or sit for hours and threatening physical violence.

Joseph apparently threatened to divorce Hailey on multiple occasions, but she begged him to stay despite being the primary breadwinner.

Joseph David Heard repeatedly punched Hayden Lee Bataille after the toddler took too long to retrieve a juice box 

On the morning of the toddler's tragic death on December 27, 2021, Joseph subjected his stepson to repeated punches to the abdomen and head.

His anger, already simmering from the previous night's incident of the child soiling his diapers, boiled over when he felt the child was taking too long to retrieve a juice box after his bath. The assault intensified as the toddler cried out in pain.

Hayden's distress only ceased when his mother entered the living room of their one-bedroom apartment, where she witnessed her husband continuing to strike the child.

In a desperate attempt to quiet the child and halt the violence, she placed her hand over his mouth and nose. Tragically, this action led to Hayden losing consciousness and ultimately succumbing to suffocation.

The state medical examiner, Dr Staci Turner, reported that an autopsy revealed the child died from suffocation but also sustained other significant injuries, including head swelling.

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