After her death in 2013, authorities discovered that eight-year-old Gizzell “Gizzy” Ford had endured a life of abuse from her father and grandmother.
The details of this abuse were found in her diary entries.
According to the diary, Gizzy was not allowed to drink anything and was starved. She would be punished if she was caught sneaking water from the toilet. This included being forced to stand for hours with rags in her mouth to keep her quiet.
Gizzy wrote: “I know if I be good and do everything I’m told I won’t have to do punishments.” She added: “I hope that I don’t mess up today because I really want to be able to just sit down, watch T.V., talk and play with everybody, I am going to be great all day.” She added later, “Not true, I failed.”
Her last diary entry is chilling, as she wrote: “I hate this life because now I’m in super big trouble.”
Two days later, Gizzy was found dead in her family’s Chicago apartment, wearing only torn underwear. She was strangled and beaten to death by her grandmother.
Her grandmother, Helen Ford, was charged with first degree murder. Her father, Andre Ford, was arrested and charged as well. He died in prison from a heart attack while awaiting trial.
Cook County prosecutors described that Gizzell’s torture included tying her to a pole attached to her father’s bed where she was used as a “punching bag.”
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, an autopsy showed the girl also suffered from blunt force trauma, child neglect and “evil” child abuse.
Helen Ford’s lawyer explained that the grandmother was burdened with the care of a child and her bedridden son. The Assistant Public Defender commented, “That was the way Helen was trying to keep order, if you will, in that home,” adding, “She was unable to overcome what she had on her plate. Is she guilty of not asking for help? Absolutely. Is it first-degree murder? It is not.”
Even though Gizell’s father battled a chronic degenerative disease and wasn’t physically capable of the abuse, he encouraged the grandmother’s tortuous activities.
Prosecutor Jennifer Coleman noted, “Even if she didn’t strangle her, she wasn’t going to let her walk out of that apartment alive. She first broke her body, then she broke her spirit.”
The Chicago Sun-Times also reports that Cook County judge Evelyn Clay explained the tragedy, noting, “That child suffered a slow and agonizing death. That little body looked like it had been pulverized from head to toe…Her treatment (of Gizzy) was evil.”
Helen Ford was found guilty and likely will spend her life in prison.
Gizzell’s mother, Sandra Mercado, and grandfather, Juan Mercado have sued the state Department of Children and Family Services as well as pediatrician Dr. Norell Rosado,
Attorney Martin Dolan said in a statement that the judge’s “decision shows not only that Gizzy’s grandmother was guilty but that this vicious murder could have been prevented, particularly if the doctor has done his job.”
The statement continued: “Clearly, the doctor who examined Gizzy just weeks before her tragic death, should have reported the visible instances of abuse. All of the warning signs pointed that something was very wrong in this household and indicated that Gizzy was being abused on a regular basis. He failed to take steps to report the evidence of abuse, which would have removed her from the home, and placed into protective custody.”