RADFORD, Va. – April is Child Abuse Prevention month, and this month we’re remembering one local child abuse case that ended in tragedy.
Two-year-old Harper Mitchell died in 2020 from blunt force head trauma, according to the medical examiner.
Last week, Radford man Andrew Byrd was convicted of her murder. Byrd was dating Harper’s mother at the time of the child’s death.
While Harper’s father TJ Mitchell said he’s pleased with the guilty verdict, that won’t bring him his daughter back.
“She was a little bright-eyed two-year-old that liked to run around and play and spend time with her brothers,” TJ Mitchell said.
Harper suffered dozens of injuries to her head, according to the medical examiner.
“His lawyer said the devil’s in the details. Yes, there’s a lot of details that were rough,” Mitchell said. “Almost 50 bruises. I mean, that was rough. I knew she had some bruises, but I didn’t realize it was 50.”
Unfortunately, child abuse cases aren’t that uncommon in the state of Virginia. 29 children died from abuse or neglect in the state of Virginia last fiscal year, according to the Department of Social Services. 42 were recorded in the fiscal year Harper died.
Healthy Families is one of the groups working to change the statistics. They will hold a prevention event in Lynchburg on Wednesday.
“We’ll be planting a pinwheel garden,” said Meredith Fulcher, director of Healthy Families - HumanKind. “I know in the past they’ve used the pinwheels to represent numbers of children who’ve faced abuse or neglect in this area.”
Fulcher said you can play a role in stopping abuse from happening by keeping an eye out for signs of injury on a child, and any changes in behavior. Then, report it.
“The Virginia Protective Services hotline is available all the time,” Fulcher said. “So, if there’s something that’s going on you know report it, and it’s on the investigators to figure out something’s founded or not.”
In two-year-old Harper Mitchell’s case, her dad is still waiting on closure. On June 5, Byrd will be sentenced for her death.
“I just hope the judge gives him the max,” Mitchell said. “He doesn’t deserve to be out. I mean he took Harper’s life. I mean you can’t put the time on life.”
HumanKind’s event takes place Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. on the corner of 5th Street and Main Street in downtown Lynchburg.