Relatives recall Gizzell Kiara Ford as a smart, mature and respectful 8-year-old girl.
Prosecutors said today her grandmother, Helen M. Ford, 51, of the 5200 block of West Adams Street, inflicted so many injuries on the girl over a long enough period and neglected her so badly that before she died Friday, Gizzell had maggots living in a head injury that had spread to another part of her scalp.
Ford cried today as prosecutors detailed the girl's injuries to Criminal Court Judge Adam Bourgeois Jr. and the judge set no bail for the murder charge against the woman.
Meanwhile, her other family members are struggling with anger, pain and disbelief, said Gizzell's uncle, Osvaldo J. Mercado of Schiller Park.
"Everybody is in shock," said Mercado, 30.
When the girl's death first came to light, Ford told police that Gizzell had harmed herself because she was upset her mother was not visiting her. But further investigation revealed that Ford had struck the child in the head and body numerous times and strangled her, according to police.
The medical examiner's office determined Saturday following an autopsy that Gizzell died of strangulation and multiple blunt trauma injuries from child abuse and child neglect.
Gizzell, who lived with her grandmother on West Adams, was pronounced dead at her home at 11:15 a.m. Friday, according to the medical examiner's office.
Police were assigned to assist an ambulance crew after receiving a report of a person not breathing at the home Friday, according to a preliminary police report. Officers had difficulty getting into the building, but when they got inside, the child was dead.
Helen Ford and the victim's father, who is bedridden, were both on the scene, the report said.
The victim was found lying face up in a room with her father and appeared to have several bruises, burns and cuts on her body, the report said.
Helen Ford told police her granddaughter was upset that her mother was not visiting her and would run into furniture in the apartment and bang her head on things, the report said. The girl also told Helen Ford she was being abused by her mother's boyfriend, the report said.
The grandmother also initially told police the girl had asked her for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich about 11 a.m. and, while she was eating it, said she couldn't move and was "really sore," the report said. The grandmother told her she needed to sit in a hot bath and when she gave her water to drink, the child stopped breathing, the report said.
The report also said that when police arrived, the child's body was "cold."
Prosecutors on Sunday painted a grisly picture of the numerous injuries — both old and new — that Gizzell had suffered, allegedly at the hands of her grandmother.
Assistant State's Attorney Amanda Pillsbury said investigators found Gizzell suffered blunt force trauma to the head long enough ago that maggots had hatched in the resulting cuts and spread to the front of the girl's scalp while she was still alive.
Gizzell had suffered cuts, bruising and scratches to her face, ears and lips. She had multiple bruises and puncture wounds on her back, chest and abdomen and bruises on her arms and legs. Her neck showed signs of hemorrhaging and fractures and broken cartilage, Pillsbury said.
The girl had suffered deep lacerations to her buttocks and had ligature marks on her ankles and wrists indicating she had been tied up, as well as circular burns on her body that may have been cigarette burns, Pillsbury said.
When they examined the girl's home for evidence, police took a pole, twine and cables, some of which had blood on them. In the bedroom where the girl was found, investigators found blood splatter present near her body, Pillsbury said.
After police began their investigation, Ford admitted she was the only person caring for Gizzell.
As Pillsbury detailed the extent of Gizzell's injuries and Bourgeois denied bond, Ford cried and shook her head.
On Friday, a spokesman for the Department of Children and Family Services said the girl's grandmother was being investigated for abuse and neglect of girl. The grandmother was also being investigated by state investigators regarding possible neglect of the girl's two siblings — two boys, ages 12 and 9, whom Ford's public defender said Sunday also had been in her care.
Two children have been removed from Ford's home and placed in foster care, DCFS spokesman Dave Clarkin said Sunday, and Gizzell's father also is being investigated, Clarkin said. DCFS had no previous contact with the home, he said.
The girl's uncle, Mercado — her mother's brother — said he had not seen Gizzell, who they called "Gizzy," since Easter, and none of Gizzell's mother's family had been allowed by Ford to see Gizzell for the last few months. Gizzell was expected to go on a camping trip with an aunt on Friday but Ford would not allow her to go, Mercado said.
"Helen blocked everybody," he said. She would say, " 'Gizzell can't talk--she's in the shower, or on punishment.' It was an excuse every time we called."
Mercado said he will remember his niece as a smart, rebellious girl who was respectful to her elders, mature, and loved eating, including ribs.
"She was outgoing; she spoke to everybody," Mercado said. "It was like one big party when she got together with her cousins."
"She had a brain; she had manners."
Mercado said his family is desperate to know why Gizzell's life was cut short.
"We want justice and we want answers," he said.
At Sunday's hearing, a man said he was a friend of the victim's father.
Later, the man, who declined to give his name, said he had known Ford since he was in 5th grade and didn't think she was capable of such things
"It never seemed that way," said the man.Copyright © 2015, RedEye