Helen Ford, 55, was charged with murdering her granddaughter, Gizzell Ford, 8, after the little girl’s body was found by paramedics with her body so badly beaten, they described her as “pulverized,” most of her hair pulled out, and maggots in a head wound that never received proper medical attention.
The grandmother, Helen Ford, is facing life in prison for this gristly murder. The young girl was placed in her grandmother’s custody after her father (Helen Ford’s son) went to prison, and her mother unfortunately lost her job and was homeless. The mother was in a pending case to get custody back of 8-year-old Gizzell. The father was also charged in the child’s murder, but he died of auto-immune disease while in prison.
Cook County Circuit Judge Evelyn Clay said, “This murder was torture. That child suffered a slow and agonizing death… That little body looked like it had been pulverized from head to toe… Her treatment (of Gizzell) was evil.”
Several of the little girl’s diary entries were also published. At first, the diary is like any little girl’s, Gizzell described jump rope and playing with her toys. Then, after moving in with her father and grandmother, the diary took a grotesque turn as the little girl described how they would punish her.
“I hate this life because now I’m in super big trouble,” she wrote on July 11 while two cousins were away at summer camp. Gizzell’s diary described as she was forced to squat for hours, and then stand for hours, and that her body was in pain.
The 10-year-old half-brother apparently lived with them as well, and was also subject to abuse from the grandmother.
The Chicago Tribune has more:
As the abuse continued, the journals show the straight-A student dreamed of the start of school in August when she could leave home for the safety of fourth grade. But by July, her once-neat handwriting had become a jagged scrawl.
“I hate this life because now I’m in super big trouble,” she wrote on July 11 while two cousins were away at summer camp.
Two days later, after officials missed opportunities to uncover the abuse in the weeks before, Gizzy’s strangled and badly beaten body was found on the floor of her father’s room clad only in a pair of torn green underwear.
Prosecutors say the 70-pound girl had been tortured to death, beaten literally from head to toe by a 275-pound grandmother who sometimes wore a belt around her neck that she used for punishment.
In addition to the two journals entered into evidence at Ford’s trial, Cook County prosecutors played cellphone videos showing Ford and Gizzy’s father berating her for breaking rules as the terrified, emaciated girl was forced to stand — a sock or rag stuffed in her mouth. She was tied to her father’s bed for days, denied food and water, and punished for trying to sneak a drink of water from the toilet, according to testimony.
The father, Andre Ford, who had long been bedridden with chronic scleroderma, died in Cook County Jail of an apparent heart attack in August 2014 while awaiting trial.
The wounds to Gizzy’s face were so severe that a Chicago police forensic investigator with 30 years on the job began to weep as she described them in court — a highly unusual display of emotion from a seasoned crime scene professional testifying at the Leighton Criminal Court Building.
“I’m sorry, this never happens,” Officer Nancy DeCook said as tears streamed down her face after she viewed a photo showing the deceased child’s badly bruised face.
Judge Evelyn Clay, who is presiding over the grandmother’s bench trial on six murder counts, could rule on her fate as soon as Thursday following closing arguments by lawyers.
Gizzy’s death marked yet another indictment of the state’s beleaguered and chronically underfunded child welfare system, which has operated under a federal consent decree for decades. An investigator for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services had visited the family’s West Side home a month before Gizzy’s slaying, and a child-abuse doctor who examined Gizzy found a suspicious injury on her buttocks weeks before her death but did not report any suspected abuse, a Chicago Tribune investigation found.
A Cook County judge had awarded temporary custody of Gizzy to her father eight months before her violent death. The father, an unemployed felon who lived with his mother in her apartment in the South Austin community, had argued the girl’s mother was homeless and failed to get their daughter to school regularly.