Weather Updates

Man charged in murder of 8-year-old daughter dies in jail hospital

Andre Ford  |  Chicago Police photo

Andre Ford | Chicago Police photo

storyidforme: 70743522
tmspicid: 20212048
fileheaderid: 9340346
Article Extras
Story Image

Updated: September 22, 2014 12:00PM

An ailing West Side man charged with the brutal murder of his 8-year-old daughter died of an apparent heart attack at Cook County Jail on Tuesday, authorities said.

Andre Ford died shortly before 11:30 a.m. at the jail’s Cermak Hospital, according to Cara Smith, the jail’s executive director.

Since Ford, 29, was accused of mandating the sadistic punishments and vicious beatings that led up to Gizzell Ford ’s strangulation last year, he has bounced between Stroger and Cermak hospitals, officials said.

Ford suffered from scleroderma, a chronic degenerative disease.

At the time of his arrest, even prosecutors said Ford was too frail to beat his daughter.

But he was well enough to allegedly order the child to suck up her urine to atone for wetting herself or be harnessed to his bed.

Sometimes, he just watched his mother, Helen, torture Gizzell in their Austin home, prosecutors said.

Helen Ford, 52, is awaiting trial in Gizzell’s murder.

The girl’s death raised questions about how the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services handles cases.

Eight months before Gizzell died, court records show the girl’s mother, Sandra Mercado, tried to win back custody of her daughter.

Additionally, a DCFS worker was with her two months earlier when a social worker interviewed her about allegations that she was sexually abused by her mother’s boyfriend, records show.

A doctor who examined her weeks before she died noted possible bruising on her buttocks.

Mercado, and Gizzell’s maternal grandfather, Juan Mercado, have since filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the child-welfare agency.

Gizzell’s body was found by paramedics on July 12, 2013, lying in her tattered underwear in her father’s blood-splattered bedroom.

She had maggots in a head wound and bruises, scratches, lacerations and punctures all over her body, prosecutors said.


Twitter: @rummanahussain

© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit To order a reprint of this article, click here.