A judge in Cook County, Illinois, has convicted Helen Ford of first-degree murder in the strangulation and beating death of her 8-year-old granddaughter

By Steve Helling
March 02, 2017 05:13 PM
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A judge in Cook County, Illinois, has convicted Helen Ford of first-degree murder in the 2013 strangling and beating death of her 8-year-old granddaughter, Gizzell Ford, PEOPLE confirms.

In court on Thursday, Judge Evelyn Clay did not even try to hide her outrage as she addressed the 55-year-old woman’s crime. Ford, in response, reportedly showed no emotion at the ruling.

“This murder was torture,” Clay said. “That child suffered a slow and agonizing death. That little body looked like it had been pulverized from head to toe. Her treatment of this child was evil.”

During Ford’s murder trial this week, prosecutors described extended torment: beatings, starvation, forced exercise and strangulation.

They also released Gizzell’s rainbow-colored diary, which partially documented the girl’s descent from a straight-A, sunny third-grader to abuse victim.

gizzell-ford
Gizzell Ford
| Credit: Handout

“I know if I be good and do everything I’m told I won’t have to do punishments,” Gizzell wrote.

She described how she had been forced to squat for hours and told to stand in one place for “an hour or two.”

Prosecutors alleged that the girl’s father, Andre Ford, directed the abuse. But his mother, Gizzell’s grandmother, carried it out, they said. (Gizzell’s father died in custody, from a chronic illness, a year after his arrest.)

Prosecutors also showed the judge several cellphone videos in which the girl was tormented, her screams muffled by a sock in her mouth.

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Gizzell’s emaciated body was found on July 12, 2013 in Ford’s trash-filled apartment in Chicago. She had been badly beaten and strangled, and an investigator cried on the stand describing her injuries.

Her 70-lb. body had been covered with bruises, lacerations and scrapes, according to authorities.

“What happened to Gizzell was an abomination,” Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney Ashley Romito told the judge. “It makes you lose faith in the human race.”

Ford’s attorney argued at trial that Gizzell’s injuries were actually self-inflicted and that the grandmother was “overwhelmed” by caring for her bedridden son and three grandchildren.

The defense did not immediately return PEOPLE’s request for comment after the conviction.

Ford faces life in prison. She will be sentenced later this month.