Gazebo Gazette

Friday, May 10, 2024 Joseph Heard of Gulfport was convicted of Capital Murder, for the murder of his two-year old step-son, Hayden Lee Bataille, that occurred on December 27, 2021.  After the close of the evidence on May 9, 2024, the jury deliberated for approximately forty-five minutes before returning a guilty verdict. Once Heard was convicted of Capital Murder, a Harrison County jury deliberated Friday and sentenced Heard to death.  

The investigation began on the morning of December 27, 2021, when first responders answered a call of an unresponsive two-year-old due to a potential drowning in the bathtub.  Upon arrival to Heard’s residence, first responders located the lifeless body of a fully dressed toddler on the living room floor, later identified as Hayden, who was badly bruised in the face, along his arms, and on his chest and torso.

Through the initial efforts of the police department, it was determined that Hayden sustained the injuries that ultimately claimed his life while in the care of Heard and his mother, Hailey Heard, at their residence off St. Mary Boulevard in Biloxi. 

An autopsy the following day revealed that Hayden died of suffocation by smothering and that he sustained multiple blunt force injuries across his body. His death was declared a homicide.

Biloxi Police Department continued the investigation, led by Investigator Nicholas Sonnier, conducting interviews with Heard and Hayden’s mother to determine what exactly  happened to the child that morning. Roughly a week after Hayden’s death, the child’s mother confessed the details of Hayden’s murder to police – that when Hayden took too long to retrieve a juice box from the kitchen the morning of December 27, 2021, Heard began repeatedly punching Hayden.

As Hayden cried, his mother covered his mouth to stop him from crying. Both Joseph Heard and Hailey Heard were subsequently indicted for Capital Murder. Hailey Heard pled guilty to First Degree Murder in May of 2023 and is currently serving a life sentence in the Mississippi Department of Corrections. 

At trial, Hailey Heard testified that in the early morning of December 27, 2021, Hayden soiled his diaper, then took too long to get a juice box from the kitchen, enraging Heard. Heard, who at trial admitted to having a temper, began to beat the child in the head and chest repeatedly,  worse than Hailey Heard had ever seen before. She testified that in an effort stop the child from  crying during Heard’s abuse, she placed her hand over his mouth ultimately smothering Hayden to death.

At trial, the State presented evidence of the prolonged nature of Heard’s abuse of Hayden. Heard, the child’s primary caretaker in the months leading up to the murder, would often force the toddler to sit on a potty-training seat for hours, pop open blisters from a second-degree burn on his hand with a spatula, and regularly brag about beating the child in text messages to Hayden’s mother. 

In addition to the child’s mother’s testimony, the jury heard from multiple doctors, who stated the child’s bruises consisted of old and new bruises and were the result of recent and prolonged abuse, not accidental falls or rough play as suggested by Heard on the morning of the murder. “He was a two-year old punished for soiling a diaper and crying. He was beaten for being  a child,” said Assistant District Attorney George Huffman, who prosecuted the case for the State of Mississippi along with Assistant District Attorney Mara Joffe.  

“A child should be loved and supported by his parents, two-year-old Hayden Bataille was beaten and killed for doing what two-year-olds do. The brutal and heinous killing of Hayden called for the maximum punishment under Mississippi law. We commend the Harrison County jury for agreeing with us,” stated District Attorney W. Crosby Parker.