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Bedridden Father Ordered Abuse of Daughter Before Her Death: Prosecutors

By Erin Meyer | September 16, 2013 1:08pm | Updated on September 16, 2013 4:13pm
 Andre Ford (l.) and his mother are charged in the slaying of his 8-year-old daughter Gizzell Ford, who prosecutors say was strangled and beaten to death in July.
Andre Ford (l.) and his mother are charged in the slaying of his 8-year-old daughter Gizzell Ford, who prosecutors say was strangled and beaten to death in July.
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Chicago Police Department

COOK COUNTY CRIMINAL COURTHOUSE — The bedridden father of an 8-year-old girl who died this summer after allegedly suffering horrific neglect and abuse is now charged with murder, with prosecutors saying he ordered his mother to mete out some of the abuse.

Andre Ford, of the 5200 block of West Adams Street, was ordered held with no bail in court Monday in the murder of Gizzell Ford, who suffered a host of injuries.

The 28-year-old Andre Ford appeared in court in a wheelchair Monday, unable to walk from the degenerative scleroderma he has suffered since age 21, prosecutors said.

But his disability didn't prevent him from being charged with murder.

"Although Andre Ford may not have been able to inflict the injuries sustained by the victim or the injuries which caused her death, he most certainly had a duty to protect the victim, and it is clear that he did nothing to stop the abuse," prosecutors said.

"Moreover, it has been well established by eyewitnesses that Andre Ford was present while the victim was beaten by his mother, Helen Ford. Andre Ford even encouraged his mother to continue to beat the victim."

Helen Ford, 51, was charged with first-degree murder in July after paramedics found Gizzell's "cold body" covered in bruises on July 12. 

Andre Ford had a history of ordering his mother to abuse Gizzell physically, even instructing his mother to tie up his daughter "to his bed and force her to stand for up to periods of four days," according to court documents.

"During these stretches, when the victim was restrained, Andre Ford watched as Gizzell was denied food, water, sleep and the use of the bathroom," according to prosecutors.

In one instance, after the girl urinated on herself, her father ordered her held down and forced her to suck up her own urine, prosecutors said.

Helen Ford, the only other person home at the time, said she had been taking care of the girl at the time of the July 12 fatal beating and strangulation.

Prosecutors said the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office determined Gizzell suffered blunt-force trauma to her head; lacerations to her face, ears and lips; multiple bruises and puncture wounds; bruising and fractures to the front and back of her head, as well as broken cartilage in her neck; burn marks consistent with cigarettes and hair removed in certain parts of her head.

Andre Ford at one point allegedly told authorities that the little girl inflicted the injuries upon herself. An autopsy determined that was impossible.

Her injuries were both old and new, prosecutors said. The morgue reported that maggots were found growing in the girl's lacerations.

Police recovered a pole, twine and cables from the home, some of which had blood on them.

Following Andre Ford's arrest, he admitted that he was aware of his daughter's injuries and kept Gizzell from attending summer camp because he didn't want others seeing the injuries, prosecutors said.

The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services has also undertaken an investigation of both Andre and Helen Ford.

A spokesman for the agency said called Gizzell's death "horrific," especially so because, like 75 percent of child deaths investigated by the agency, her alleged murder could have been prevented.

"Too often, when investigators talk to neighbors, friends and relatives, they say they saw abuse and failed to report it," Dave Clarkin said. "In this case we have a relative on record [saying they] suspected abuse."  

Two of Gizzell's cousins living in the Fords' Austin home at the time of the murder have been placed in licensed foster homes.