Andre Ford | Homicide Watch Chicago news about Andre Forden-usThu, 08 Jun 2017 09:45:27 -0500Grandmother gets life in prison for 'deliberate, excruciatingly painful' death of 8-year-old Gizzell Ford<p>By ANDY GRIMM<br /> Chicago Sun-Times<br /> <img src="" alt="Helen Ford | Cook County Sheriff&#039;s Dept." width="225" height="300" class="size-medium wp-image-26279" /><p class="wp-caption-text">Helen Ford | Cook County Sheriff's Dept.</p></p> <p>The dark, revolting images on the massive monitor screen showed <a href="">Gizzell Ford</a>, just months removed from winning her school spelling bee and collecting a straight-A report card, with piles of trash heaped around her bruised, scarred body.</p> <p>Then came video of the third-grader, swaying drowsily, her hair askew and eyes distant, as her grandmother and father taunted and shoved her.</p> <p>More video—the same—except for a rag stuffed in the girl’s mouth.</p> <p>The girl’s bruises and cuts, one infected and flecked with maggots, were inflicted over a period of months by Gizzell’s grandmother, <a href="">Helen Ford</a>, who was convicted in March of first-degree murder in Gizzell’s death.</p> <p>At a sentencing hearing Wednesday, members of Helen Ford’s family—a half-dozen of whom had just testified to Ford’s kindness and good character—averted their eyes from the screen.</p> <p>Assistant State’s Attorney Ashley Romito stared at Ford. “Everyone in this room recoils at that video but her,” Romito said, pointing out Ford.<br /> <span id="more-26276"></span><br /> <img src="" alt="Gizzell Ford | family photo" width="300" height="205" class="size-medium wp-image-26278" srcset=" 300w, 500w, 763w" sizes="(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px" /><p class="wp-caption-text">Gizzell Ford | family photo</p></p> <p>The video, filmed on Helen Ford’s cellphone not long before Gizzell was found dead four years ago, was played near the finale of Romito’s closing argument seeking that the 55-year-old Ford spend the rest of her life in prison.</p> <p>Judge Evelyn Clay concurred, handing down a life sentence despite pleas from Ford’s supporters, who had testified that she was a kind, generous woman who had become overwhelmed by the burdens of caring for a bed-ridden adult son and other family.</p> <p>“This was a deliberate, excruciatingly painful way to die,” Clay said during a lengthy preamble to her sentence, an address punctuated with long pauses and glares at Ford and the defendant’s family. “Helen Ford did know how to say ‘no.’ She did know how to say ‘no’ to Gizzell. No water. No food. No sleep.</p> <p>“She did not know how to say ‘yes’ to Gizzell. She did not say ‘yes’ to the basic requirements of human care.”</p> <p>Helen Ford gave a rambling, 15-minute description of the grueling circuit of trips to schools and hospitals that had been her routine as she cared for her bed-ridden son, <a href="">Andre Ford</a>, along with Gizzell and two other children.</p> <p>“Gizzell got to point that she was throwing herself around, and they need to know that it’s the honest to God truth on everything I live,” Ford said.</p> <p>“Miss Ford, that’s enough,” the judge interjected. “Enough. Enough.”</p> <p>On a July afternoon in 2013, paramedics were dispatched to Ford’s West Side apartment and found Gizzell’s lifeless, battered body. An autopsy found she had been strangled and suffered blunt-force trauma, and that her kidneys were on the verge of failure caused by lack of food and water.</p> <p>Gizzell chronicled the abuse almost daily in a diary, though penmanship grew weaker and entries darker as her death neared, Romito pointed out.</p> <p>“I hate this life because now I’m in super big trouble by cousin Eric and it’s all a big mistake but nobody want to believe me,” Gizzell wrote in an entry dated less than two weeks before her body was found. “I really think that I’m a jerk.”</p> <p>During the nearly five-hour hearing Wednesday, a half-dozen of Ford’s relatives took the stand as character witnesses. Many said they had spent time in Ford’s care, or left their own children with her. Ford, who had been unable to work because of a back injury, cared for Gizzell’s invalid father, who suffered a debilitating illness called chronic scleroderma. Andre Ford, who also had been charged in Gizzell’s murder, died in 2014 while awaiting trial.</p> <p>“I know deep down in my heart she didn’t try to kill Gizzy,” said Ford’s younger sister, Joyce.</p> <p>Gizzell Ford had been placed in the care of her father and grandmother by the state Department of Children and Family Services after her mother had been reported as homeless. Lawyers for her mother, Sandra Mercado, have sued the state, claiming the timeline of the abuse and visits from DCFS staffers showed numerous instances where child welfare authorities could have rescued Gizzell from the torture.</p> <p>Testifying for the prosecution on Wednesday, Mercado’s sister said that Gizzell likely could have forgiven Ford. “You may have broken her body by torture, but you never broke her spirit,” she said. “If she had one last breath, I know she would use it to tell you she loved you.”</p> Jeff MayesThu, 08 Jun 2017 09:45:27 -0500 FordAndre FordHelen FordGrandmother convicted of murder for 'slow, painful, agonizing death' of 8-year-old Gizzell Ford in 2013<p>By RUMMANA HUSSAIN<br /> Chicago Sun-Times<br /> <img src="" alt="Gizzell Ford | photo provided" width="225" height="300" class="size-medium wp-image-24590" /><p class="wp-caption-text">Gizzell Ford | photo provided</p><br /> <a href="">Gizzell Ford</a>, a straight-A student, was by seen almost everyone who crossed her path as a “blessing”--a lovely, bright smart girl.</p> <p>The 8-year-old, in her diary, expressed a desire to have a fulfilling relationship with her paternal grandmother nourished with deep conversation and love.</p> <p>But all <a href="">Helen Ford</a> gave Gizzell was hell, according to Cook County prosecutors.</p> <p>Tying her to a pole attached to her father’s bed, Gizzell was used as “punching bag,” whipped with a belt and deprived of food, water and sleep for days, prosecutors said.</p> <p>“That child suffered a slow, painful, agonizing death,” an incensed Judge Evelyn Clay said Thursday before finding the 55-year-old Ford guilty of murder in a case that drew criticism for how the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services handles matters.<br /> <span id="more-24587"></span><br /> <img src="" alt="Helen Ford | Cook County Sheriff&#039;s Dept." width="225" height="300" class="size-medium wp-image-24591" /><p class="wp-caption-text">Helen Ford | Cook County Sheriff's Dept.</p></p> <p>Gizzell died of strangulation in the summer of 2013, but contributing to her death were blunt force trauma, child neglect and the “evil” child abuse inflicted on her, Clay said as court spectators wiped away tears.</p> <p>Ford, who prosecutors said never showed remorse nor shed a tear over her granddaughter’s brutal death, remained stoic when Clay delivered her emotional ruling.</p> <p>Ford may have squeezed the “life out of Gizzell’s broken body,” but she had been slowly killing her for days in the “filthy, disgusting” West Side apartment where maggots latched on to the girl’s skull, Assistant State’s Attorney Jennifer Coleman said.</p> <p>“Even if she didn’t strangle her, she wasn’t going to let her walk out of that apartment alive,” the prosecutor said.</p> <p>Gizzell’s father, <a href="">Andre Ford</a>, was a willing participant, cheerleading the abuse as he withered away from a chronic degenerative disease.<br /> <img src="" alt="Andre Ford | Cook County Sheriff&#039;s Dept." width="225" height="300" class="size-medium wp-image-24592" /><p class="wp-caption-text">Andre Ford | Cook County Sheriff's Dept.</p><br /> But Andre Ford–who died in 2014 while in custody in Cook County Jail for his daughter’s murder–wasn’t physically capable of the abuse, Coleman said.</p> <p>Coleman and her partner, Ashley Romito, in their closing arguments, went over the girl’s journal before and after she started living with the Fords to illustrate how the abuse affected her.</p> <p>“People say I’m smart, courageous and beautiful,” the honor roll student wrote at the time she was “healthy, strong and vital,” prosecutors said.</p> <p>After the child was taken to live in the 5200 block of West Adams, her tone became more somber. “I hate this life. I really think that I’m a jerk,” she wrote.</p> <p>“She [Helen Ford] first broke her body, then she broke her spirit,” Coleman said.</p> <p>Fellow prosecutors sitting in court quietly sighed when Assistant Public Defender Jennifer Hodel said Helen Ford had “too much on her plate” and only tied Gizzell up because she tried to stab her father, her little cousin and tried to kill herself by jumping out of a window.</p> <p>When mentioning the underwear the emaciated girl was seen wearing in a harrowing video and photos shown in court, Hodel said it was normal for some to wear so little on a hot summer day.</p> <p>Helen Ford might have used questionable disciplinary methods, but she was in over her head caring for a bed-ridden adult son and other children, Hodel argued.</p> <p>“That was the way Helen was trying to keep order, if you will, in that home,” Hodel said. “… Having too much on one’s plate. That’s what this case is about. Helen was overwhelmed. She was overworked. She was unable to overcome what was on her plate.”</p> <p>If anything, Helen Ford should be convicted of involuntary manslaughter, Hodel said.</p> <p>The defense attorney touched upon the DCFS case, mentioning how a judge took Gizzell away from her mother, Sandra Mercado, because they were kicked from home to home, and found wandering the streets at 2 a.m.</p> <p>But Romito said stories of Gizzell trying to attack family members were “unmitigated lies” by relatives who want to protect Helen Ford.</p> <p>“What happened to Gizzell was an abomination … It makes you lose faith in the human race,” Romito said, seethingly adding that the frail Gizzell had no chance against the “black, depraved heart” of the “obese” Helen Ford.</p> <p>Then pointing to another one of Gizzell’s diary entries, in which the girl had wrote that she had “failed,” Romito said, “She didn’t fail. The system that gave her to those people failed.”</p> <p>Members of the Mercado family in court Thursday declined comment.</p> <p>Sandra Mercado, and Gizzell’s grandfather, Juan Mercado, have sued DCFS, but the case has been on hold as attorneys wait for evidence that had been in possession of prosecutors handling the criminal case, attorney Martin Dolan said Thursday.</p> <p>Dolan said testimony in the criminal case against Helen Ford was chilling, and the timeline of the abuse showed numerous instances where child welfare investigators should have taken action, and stopped the abuse well before Gizzelle’s death.</p> <p>“There was corroborating evidence that should have thrown up major red flags,” Dolan said. “We haven’t had time to examine all of it yet.”</p> <p>When a few of Helen Ford’s relatives were asked if they wanted to comment after court Thursday, one woman raised her middle finger at reporters.</p> Jeff MayesFri, 03 Mar 2017 10:35:33 -0600 FordAndre FordHelen Ford