A Chicago woman was convicted of first-degree murder Thursday for the brutal, gruesome killing of her 8-year-old granddaughter, who was tied up and deprived of food and water for days.
According to the Associated Press, 55-year-old Helen Ford now faces life in prison without parole for the 2013 murder of Gizzell Ford, which, after the bench trial, Cook County, Ill., Circuit Judge Evelyn Clay called “exceptionally brutal.”
“This murder was torture. That child suffered a slow and agonizing death,” Clay said in the courtroom, according to the report. “That little body looked like it had been pulverized from head to toe. ... Her treatment [of Gizzell] was evil.”
AP notes that eight months before Gizzell was killed, a judge had placed her in the custody of her father, Andre Ford, an unemployed felon who was living with his mother because of a chronic degenerative disease. He was also charged in his daughter’s murder but died in Cook County Jail in August 2014 while awaiting trial
Ford had argued that Gizzell’s mother, Sandra Mercado, was homeless and didn’t get their daughter to school regularly, according to the report. Mercado was trying to regain custody of her daughter around the time of her death. The mother has since filed a lawsuit against the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, claiming that a caseworker who had visited the home where Gizzell was living had ignored obvious signs of abuse.
People magazine reports that Gizzell kept a journal in which she detailed some of what she went through at the hands of her grandmother.
“I know if I be good and do everything I’m told I won’t have to do punishments,” Gizzell wrote, describing how she had been forced to squat for hours and told to stand in one place for “an hour or two.”
The little girl was excitedly looking forward to the start of school in August so that she could be out of her house and away from her grandmother.
“I am going to be a beautiful smart and good young lady,” she wrote one day. “I can do anything I put my smart mind to. People say I’m smart and courageous and beautiful.”
Her last entry was on July 11, 2013, when she wrote, “I hate this life because I’m in super big trouble.”
Gizzell was dead the following day, and her body was discovered soon after in her grandmother’s trash-filled apartment. She had been strangled and badly beaten.
Cellphone video of Gizzell’s abuse was played in court, showing Helen Ford berating the young girl for breaking rules while the little girl stood with a sock stuffed in her mouth.
Prosecutors said that Gizzell had been tied to a bed for days, denied food and water, and then punished when she tried to get a sip of water from a toilet.
It is believed that her father directed the attacks, while her grandmother carried out the cruel deeds.
“[Helen Ford] first broke her body, then she broke her spirit,” Assistant State’s Attorney Jennifer Coleman said, according to AP.
Ford’s attorney, Assistant Public Defender Jennifer Hodel, argued that the woman had “too much on her plate,” with her sick son and other grandchildren, and only tied up Gizzell because the girl had tried to attack her father and a cousin and tried to kill herself by jumping out a window.
“That was the way Helen was trying to keep order, if you will, in that home,” Hodel said. “Helen was overwhelmed. She was overworked. She was unable to overcome what was on her plate.”