Eight-year-old Gizzell “Gizzy” Ford’s life was so miserable, she wanted to die. Written in the pages of a rainbow covered diary were heartbreaking tales of abuse at the hands of her grandmother.
According to PEOPLE magazine, when she began her diary she wrote of jumping rope, school, teachers and her friends, but the summer of 2013 ended all of that.
“I know if I be good and do everything I’m told I won’t have to do punishments,” she wrote. She went on to write that her grandmother would force her to squat for hours and stand in place for “an hour or two.”
She said that she was excited about school to begin, not because she’d see friends again or begin new adventures, but because she’d be away from her grandmother all day.
“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.”
In that same entry, Ford hoped she wouldn’t “mess up” on that day.
“I really want to be able to just sit down, watch T.V., talk and play with everybody,” she wrote. “I am going to be great all day.”
But it was no use. As a P.S. she wrote: “Not true. I failed.”
Her final entry was July 11, 2013 when she explained that she hated her life because she was “in super big trouble.”
The next day she was found dead after being strangled and badly beaten in her grandmother’s trash-filled apartment.
PEOPLE obtained court documents about the case against the girl’s grandmother and father. Investigators revealed the girl’s father would direct the attacks and her grandmother would carry them out. While the girl’s father is now dead from a rare skin disease, her 55-year-old grandmother, Hellen Ford, is on trial for murder.
The diaries were an exhibit in the case against the grandmother but so was a cellphone video of a terrified “Gizzy” being berated for breaking a rule. The girl stood silent with a sock stuffed in her mouth. Prosecutors also revealed she was tied to a bed for several days, denied food and water and punished when she tried to get some water from a toilet.
“They’re the most haunting images any of us will see until the end of our days,” said Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney Ashley Romito.
According to Romito’s opening statement, “Gizzy” had a “terrific smile, beautiful, full hair and wonderful penmanship. What Helen Ford did to her reduced that child to something completely unrecognizable.”
During the trial, a veteran Chicago police forensic investigator apologized as she broke down while photos were shown of the girl’s body. She went on to say the injuries were some of the worst she’s ever seen in her 30 years on the job.
The girl’s 10-year-old half-brother testified that he also experienced abuse at the hands of his grandmother. Ford would beat him with a belt and force him to do squats as a punishment. He witnessed his grandmother hit “Gizzy” in the mouth with a spatula and force her to eat hot peppers or stand in contorted positions for hours. If she cried, a sock would be stuffed in her mouth.
At one point on the stand, he burst into tears.
“She was very nice. She liked to make friends. She liked to play,” he said.
The public defender explained that the case was a tragic one but that Ford was “overworked, overwhelmed and overcome” with her responsibilities of caring for a bedridden child and his three children.
She also attempted to defend Ford by claiming the girl’s injuries were self-inflicted.
“She was a tragically troubled young lady,” the attorney claimed. “She coped by injuring herself.”
The grandmother was found guilty late Thursday and faces up to life in prison.
If you or someone you know is suffering from child abuse, you can contact local authorities at one of these numbers. To get help for sexual abuse, you can contact RAINN here. For information on becoming a foster parent to help girls like Gizzy and others visit AdoptUsKids.org.