Gizzell Ford, better known as Gizzy to family and friends, was an 8-year-old spelling bee winner and straight-A student when she was mur*dered by her father and grandmother in 2013. She kept a journal, its rainbow-striped cover filled with the bright and bubbly girl’s hopes and dreams.
Gizzy’s mother lost custody of her after her home was destroyed. The State of Illinois placed Gizzy in the care of her father, Andre, and grandmother, Helen Ford, rather than the Illinois Children and Family Service division. Gizzy was unhappy from the start of this transition, and her sadness was reflected in her numerous journal entries.
“I am going to be a beautiful, smart, and good young lady,” one 2013 journal entry stated. Police discovered Gizzy’s lifeless body on the floor of her father’s bedroom in the pest-infested Austin home a few weeks later.
The Murd*er of Gizzy Ford
She had been ki*lled by stra*ngulation and beating. Electrical wire had been coiled around the base of a bedpost, and her hands and ankles had been bound. Gizzy’s rear of her head was covered in large, maggot-infested wounds. From head to toe, she was covered in abrasions and bruises that were in varying states of healing.
Gizzy was mistreated and tortured by Andre and Helen Ford for the whole eight months that she lived in the house, according to an inquiry. It was this maltreatment that led to her death. Some of the episodes captured on cellphone camera involved her father, Andre Ford, who was wheelchair-bound and afflicted with degenerative disease. He gave his mother instructions on how to torment Gizzy. In one of the films, Gizzy is seen stuffing a sock into her mouth.
In a journal entry the 8-year-old wrote:
“I know if I be good and do everything I’m told I won’t have to do punishments.”
After reading the journal, the police discovered that the “punishment” Gizzy was referring to involved being beaten from head to toe when she tried to get a drink from the toilet because she was so thirsty, having dirty socks shoved into her mouth, being forced to perform squats, and being chained to a bed for days at a time in a position that prevented her from moving.
When he had the opportunity, Andre enjoyed hurting his daughter, and when not, he watched his mother mistreat her. Even while the abu*se went on, he frequently grinned and chuckled.
Gizzy also suffered from kidney failure as a result of being starved of food and water.
Andre, Helen Arrested
Following their arrests, the Fords were accused of m*urder by the police.
A complaint against Helen and Andre was received by the Cook County Department of Children and Family Services approximately one month prior to Helen’s passing. Authorities looked into the family, but they failed to see any red flags and dismissed the complaint as “unfounded.”
Gizzy’s injuries were found by a doctor who examined him to be consistent with child abu*se. Despite being compelled by law, this doctor neglected Gizzy and failed to disclose the clear indications of abu*se he discovered on Gizzy’s body.
Gizzy wrote in her journal about the horrifying mistreatment she endured on a daily basis while residing with Andre and Helen.
Another entry read:
“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,”–Gizzy Ford
In her last journal entry dated July 11, 2013, she wrote,
“I hate this life because now I’m in super big trouble.”
Police found her body on July 2.
Andre Dies, Helen Convicted of M*urder
In 2014, while awaiting trial at the Cook County Jail, Andre Ford passed away from a heart attack. Helen was found guilty of mur*der and given a life sentence without the chance of release. Despite the cell phone video evidence and Gizzy’s multiple journal entries, Helen claimed Gizzy caused her own injuries because she was unhappy and wanted to die.
Children Removed From Care
The two elder kids, who were in foster care at the time, were 9 and 12 years old. Gizzy’s mother sued the state of Illinois, arguing that by overlooking clear indications of abu*se, they had failed to safeguard her daughter.
“I knew Grizzell would change the world somehow—as a writer or as a teacher,” said Kathryn Wanicek, the girl’s first and partially second grade teacher.