ROANOKE, VA – A man from Virginia has been handed two life sentences for the brutal murder of his girlfriend’s two-year-old daughter, Harper Mitchell, in 2020. Andrew Byrd, 37, was found guilty of aggravated murder, aggravated malicious wounding, and several other charges in March.
The severity of the crime was underscored by Commonwealth’s Attorney Chris Rehak, who described it as the most serious crime on record. He painted a grim picture of Byrd’s actions, stating that he had tortured the young girl.
On the day of the incident, Byrd was at his Roanoke residence, taking care of Harper and her two siblings while their mother, Amanda Mitchell, was at work. Upon her return, Mitchell found her daughter in a lifeless state, bruised and cold. Byrd, however, prevented her from seeking medical help.
Mitchell’s testimony revealed that Byrd had taken her phone and strangled her. Then, he threatened to kill her children if she attempted to take Harper to the hospital. Rehak stated that Byrd’s primary concern that night was drug use, showing no regard for the critically injured child.
The following morning, Mitchell managed to contact Byrd’s mother, who immediately called 911. Harper was rushed to the hospital, but it was too late. After three days, her family made the heartbreaking decision to remove her from life support.
The extent of Harper’s injuries was such that medical examiner Dr. Amy Tharp likened them to those sustained in a severe car accident. Harper’s cause of death was determined to be blunt-force trauma to the head.
Byrd’s defense team argued that there were no witnesses to him assaulting Harper and dismissed the prosecution’s case as speculative. They also highlighted Byrd’s history of substance abuse and methamphetamine addiction. Byrd himself offered various explanations for Harper’s injuries, suggesting she might have fallen down stairs or off her four-wheeler.
Rehak described Byrd as a dangerous, violent liar, stating that a life sentence was perhaps too lenient. Harper’s father, TJ Mitchell, shared his grief over the loss of his daughter and the difficulty of deciding to remove her from life support.
Amanda Mitchell is currently facing charges for child abuse, cruelty, and drug possession, while Byrd faces additional charges related to the alleged abuse of Mitchell’s sons.