The Girl In The Window

I have to thank Kat for showing me this story.  I have been debating if I should post about it tonight while I was still upset or wait till morning.  After reading this story, I am still in tears regarding this little girl. I have quoted the first part of the article, so you can understand the conditions this poor girl was living in.

Photo Courtsey of the St Petersburg Times

Just before noon on July 13, 2005, a Plant City police car pulled up outside that shattered window. Two officers went into the house — and one stumbled back out.

Clutching his stomach, the rookie retched in the weeds.

Plant City Detective Mark Holste had been on the force for 18 years when he and his young partner were sent to the house on Old Sydney Road to stand by during a child abuse investigation. Someone had finally called the police.

They found a car parked outside. The driver’s door was open and a woman was slumped over in her seat, sobbing. She was an investigator for the Florida Department of Children and Families.

“Unbelievable,” she told Holste. “The worst I’ve ever seen.”

The police officers walked through the front door, into a cramped living room.

“I’ve been in rooms with bodies rotting there for a week and it never stunk that bad,” Holste said later. “There’s just no way to describe it. Urine and feces — dog, cat and human excrement — smeared on the walls, mashed into the carpet. Everything dank and rotting.”

Tattered curtains, yellow with cigarette smoke, dangling from bent metal rods. Cardboard and old comforters stuffed into broken, grimy windows. Trash blanketing the stained couch, the sticky counters.

The floor, walls, even the ceiling seemed to sway beneath legions of scuttling roaches.

“It sounded like you were walking on eggshells. You couldn’t take a step without crunching German cockroaches,” the detective said. “They were in the lights, in the furniture. Even inside the freezer. The freezer!”

While Holste looked around, a stout woman in a faded housecoat demanded to know what was going on. Yes, she lived there. Yes, those were her two sons in the living room. Her daughter? Well, yes, she had a daughter . . .

The detective strode past her, down a narrow hall. He turned the handle on a door, which opened into a space the size of a walk-in closet. He squinted in the dark.

At his feet, something stirred.

First he saw the girl’s eyes: dark and wide, unfocused, unblinking. She wasn’t looking at him so much as through him.

She lay on a torn, moldy mattress on the floor. She was curled on her side, long legs tucked into her emaciated chest. Her ribs and collarbone jutted out; one skinny arm was slung over her face; her black hair was matted, crawling with lice. Insect bites, rashes and sores pocked her skin. Though she looked old enough to be in school, she was naked — except for a swollen diaper.

“The pile of dirty diapers in that room must have been 4 feet high,” the detective said. “The glass in the window had been broken, and that child was just lying there, surrounded by her own excrement and bugs.”

When he bent to lift her, she yelped like a lamb. “It felt like I was picking up a baby,” Holste said. “I put her over my shoulder, and that diaper started leaking down my leg.”

The girl didn’t struggle. Holste asked, What’s your name, honey? The girl didn’t seem to hear.

He searched for clothes to dress her, but found only balled-up laundry, flecked with feces. He looked for a toy, a doll, a stuffed animal. “But the only ones I found were covered in maggots and roaches.”

Choking back rage, he approached the mother. How could you let this happen?

“The mother’s statement was: ‘I’m doing the best I can,’ ” the detective said. “I told her, ‘The best you can sucks!’ ”

When taken into custody, Dani could not walk, drink from a cup, eat, or talk. She truly acted like a baby. After exhaustive rounds of testing, they diagnosed her with “environmental autism.” Since she was deprived of interaction for so long, the doctor believed, that she had withdrawn into herself. “In the first five years of life, 85 percent of the brain is developed,” said Armstrong, the psychologist who examined Danielle. “Those early relationships, more than anything else, help wire the brain and provide children with the experience to trust, to develop language, to communicate. They need that system to relate to the world.” As you can see, she was in bad shape. As a mother myself, I cannot understand not caring for your own child. There were 2 other boys in the house too! If you can believe this, the mother got a plea bargain so that she served no jail time! She has claimed an injury, so she doesn’t have to serve her community service time either! She also doesn’t understand why the state took her daughter away.

The couple you see in the picture above is Diane and Bernie Lierow who are her angels. When looking for a child to adopt, they chose her not knowing if she’ll ever be “normal”. I’ll be honest; I don’t know if I could have taken this on. Because of the love from her new family:

Is she okay?

Danielle is better than anyone dared hope. She has learned to look at people and let herself be held. She can chew ham. She can swim. She’s tall and blond and has a little belly. She knows her name is Dani.

In her new room, she has a window she can look out of. When she wants to see outside, all she has to do is raise her arms and her dad is right behind her, waiting to pick her up.

I wish someone could explain to me how we let this happen. The part that makes me most angry is that this did not have to happen. This girl’s life is possibly ruined since DCFS was called twice on this family when Dani was young, and they did nothing.  My god, what more do you have to do to get your kids taken away from you besides seriously neglecting them?!?  I tried to summarize this story the best I could, but check out the article.  Make sure you have some Kleenex available, because your heart will break for this little girl.  I know mine did.

Comments

  1. says

    That poor little girl.

    The stories will continue until every state overhauls their social services system. In 2006 in NY, we lost Nixmary Brown. She was second grader who was physically & pschologically abused. SHe was killed by her stepfather, Cesar Rodriguez. Since Nixmary's death, the system here was suppose to have been changed. Yet…..

    This year, we lost 3 year old Kyle Smith. His parents had difficulties so his godmother was appointed as his foster parent. His godmother (Nymeen Cheatham) lost custody of her four children in Texas three years before the court made her a foster parent for Kyle. Kyle was beaten to death for being bad and found with cigarette burns on his arms. So even in 2008 the NYC system is not working.

  2. Emma says

    That is so horrible, that poor little girl. I can't understand how the mother could let her children and home get like that.

  3. Sharon says

    This is sickening and saddening. What a wonderful thing that this couple took in the broken little girl. Her parents are a clear case of laziness and lack of natural affection. My house isn't spotless, but there isn't garbage or feces on the floor, roaches, lice or any other varmint (except for the occasional mouse and spider) in this house. Even if I'm tired my little one is always clean, well fed and loved. She talks like a 4 year old and is very outgoing; she's only 2. There really is no excuse for this; that woman let her children live worse than the animals in the wild keep their kids.

  4. says

    It makes me so angry that these things happen. Our sports stars get paid so much money that should be used to pay social workers instead. Our world is mixed up and sad.

  5. Jay Harris says

    I have a good read,i cant imagine those things happen.I will certainly come back for more reads later. Thanks for sharing.More power!

  6. says

    This is such a sad story, and yes I'm afraid it will be repeated. Most Child Protective Service's have a mandate that force them to make every attempt to reunite families, even when the children have been placed into protective custody.

    I agree that something should have been done the first two times reports were made. Conditions like this do not develop over a few weeks or months. I imagine it was a lazy case worker, trying to hurry to finish their case load so they could go home.

    I hope she continues to improve with the love of her new family. Did they leave the other children in the home, if so, there is a serious issue.

  7. says

    It is a sad testament to the castration of the church that these things go on. Honestly, cases like this are rare and the police and social services usually wind up doing much more harm than good for families. It is supposed to be the CHURCH's responsibilty to help such people. Doesn't James say what pure and undefiled religion is?

    Everyone in the world can point the finger and can complain… but what are YOU and I doing? This is where it really matters. We should stop demanding that the government do more, and start doing more ourselves. People really need to get involved with each other.

  8. Petula says

    I can't even believe this is true. I hear of so many people losing their children to false allegations and here is an obvious case of neglect and nothing was done! That's apalling. How many more times will — as a society — fail our children. Oh so sad, but I do applaud that couple for taking her in and adopting her. I am sure their love will help her to grow leaps and bounds. I have never heard of environmental autism! Her birth mother should be sent to a mental institution or something. That is absolutely ridiculous and to think she won't pay for her crime. So sad.

  9. says

    Thanks for sharing this story. I was in tears by the time I was finished. Some people should not be allowed to reproduce. I am so happy she was found in time and was taken in by a great family.

  10. CrAzY Working Mom says

    OMG, this is terrible. It makes me wonder if the neighbors didn't notice something unusual going on. Who was the person who finally made that call that made the difference? It is sad, very sad but we can all say why didn't someone else do something to make a difference, but what we should be doing is looking at ourselves to say what can I do to make a difference. This woman should be behind bars and she should NEVER be allowed to raise this child or any other, not even an animal!

  11. tafki says

    It is a sad testament to the castration of the church that these things go on. Honestly, cases like this are rare and the police and social services usually wind up doing much more harm than good for families. It is supposed to be the CHURCH’s responsibilty to help such people. Doesn’t James say what pure and undefiled religion is?

    Everyone in the world can point the finger and can complain… but what are YOU and I doing? This is where it really matters. We should stop demanding that the government do more, and start doing more ourselves. People really need to get involved with each other.

    vry man

  12. says

    Oh, my…I'm not sure if I CAN read it, cause I'm about to cry just reading this! Thank you for sharing this atrocity with your readers. As a public school teacher, I see way too often how our system is failing children. It breaks my heart and makes me wonder what we can do to make it better!

  13. says

    this same situation happened in our town about five years ago. But both of the parents went to jail and their other kids were never given back to them. Unfortunately there is way too much of this happening in this day and age. Thank god those kind people took her in. Now she will be OK.

  14. says

    Awful story, but thank goodness this girl found her her angels.

    The various Child Services systems have a lot of false positives to go along with the real rescues, such as this one. I think this makes the solution to the problem very difficult. Tafki is right about the Church, too.

    And that mom (and where's the dad?) definitely needs some serious therapy.

    No, I'm not going to read the main article, this post is enough.

  15. says

    You were right about needing tissues…That is such a sad story…those parents really are her angels, to adopt someone that might never be able to say, "I love you" or "can I go play?". The birth mother shouldn't have been able to get away with just a plea bargain. I wish I would have stopped after reading this, I followed the link to the main article and I couldn't stop crying. Thanks for sharing this and getting the word out.

  16. teri says

    I was so sick to my stomach after reading this story …I to read further about the abuse this poor little baby suffered…and I too feel helpless to make a difference at times ..although the entry above by the lady who says it is devastating how the church has been castrated from society..I mean if the people who desire to serve God and others are so allienated from everything then all these cases are put into the hands of overworked and underpaid poeple who cannot possibly do what it takes to save these babies……So PLEASE DON"T CRY OVER THIS AND MOVE ON….MAKE THE DIFFERENCE THAT YOU CAN…ONE WAY….EDUCATE YOURSELF AND VOTE FOR GODLY LEADERS LOCALLY AND NATIONALLY…ABORTION HAS GIVEN SOCIETY THE IDEA THAT SOME SINGLE MOMS SHOULD HAVE OPTED TO ABORT RATHER THAN GIVE BIRTH…AND IT HARDENS PEOPLES HEARTS TOWARDS MOTHERS WHOS CHILDREN ARE SUFFERING……AS ABORTION INCREASES SO DOES ABUSE….ALSO WHEN YOUR'E OUT IN PUBLIC OR EVEN WITH YOUR NEIGHBORS BE AWARE….IF YOU SEE SOMETHING THAT DOESN'T SEEM RIGHT …DO SOMETHING ….DON'T THINK "I DON'T WANT TO GET INVOLVED" AND GO ON….IF GOOD PEOPLE SIT BY AND DO NOTHING …EVIL WILL ALWAYS TAKE OVER…….PRAY FOR THESE BLESSED PEOPLE GOD SENT TO SAVE THIS BEAUTIFUL LITTLE GIRL…

  17. hunter says

    After I read this story I lost a lot of respect for man kind.How could you do something like this to a poor child?You would have to be a monster to do something like this to a child who didn't do a thing to you. The mom said when her daughter was little she cried a lot and thought she was spoiled. That is the most stupid thing I ever heard. It doesn't mean just because your baby cries a lot they are spoiled. I pray for this little girl i hope she will get what she deserves.

  18. says

    OMG! I just stumbled here and it completely caught me off guard. The images of the broken windows and excrement. I am so glad she was saved. How could neighbors not see or smell what was happening? Were there screens or such hiding?

    It would be nice to have another update to how Dani is doing today. Thanks for the posting, even if it's hard to believe.

  19. says

    I've heard similar stories before. Her mother clearly had mental issues and I hope she gets help with that. Its easy to say her mother was evil or lazy, but if she had a mental illness she might not be able to accurately perceive the situation. For some reason it was the "little belly" part of the story that made me watery eyed.

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