A Chicago woman will spend the rest of her life in prison for the strangulation death of her 8-year-old granddaughter, a judge has ruled.
The same Cook County judge who convicted Helen Ford of first-degree murder in Gizzell Ford's 2013 death handed down the sentence Wednesday.
Cook County prosecutors said the 275-pound grandmother tortured and beat the 70-pound girl in her home in the 5200 block of West Adams Street in the city's Austin neighborhood.
Prosecutors said Gizzell was tied to a pole attached to her father's bed, whipped with a belt and used as a "punching bag," according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Gizzell's father, Andre Ford, also was charged with murder but died in jail awaiting trial.
Prosecutors allege Gizzell was dying of kidney failure even before she was strangled because her parents and grandmother denied her food and water.
Gizzell, a straight-A student, was seen by almost everyone who crossed her path as a "blessing" – a bright young girl.
"People say I’m smart, courageous and beautiful," she wrote in her diary at the time she was "healthy, strong and vital," prosecutors said.
In that same diary, Gizzell expressed a desire to have a fulfilling relationship with her grandmother nourished with deep conversation and love.
But 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.
"She [Helen Ford] first broke her body, then she broke her spirit," Assistant State’s Attorney Jennifer Coleman said.
An Illinois Department of Children and Family Services investigator visited the home a month before Gizzell's death. A doctor also found a suspicious injury weeks before Gizzell died, but didn't report suspected abuse.