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Monday, August 04, 2008

A Feral Girl's Journey to Join Humanity

I thought that in my years in law enforcement, I had seen some extreme cases of child neglect. I hadn't. At least not compared to Dani Lierow.

This story of a "feral girl" from the St. Petersburg Times is heartbreaking. This little girl was shut away in a tiny room for practically her entire life and given nothing more than just enough food to barely survive; no love, no attention, no conversation.

She was found in a squalid (to put it mildly) home with feces on the walls and so many roaches that they crunched underfoot anywhere the police and child protective services walked. Conditions were so bad that a cop went from the house and vomited in the weeds, and a social worker was wracked by sobs in her car.

"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!"

And then they found this little girl in a room no bigger than a walk-in closet:
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."

I think about my own precious daughter, and it's beyond my understanding how one human being could subject another little precious human being to such neglect, disregard and lack of love.

The darkness and depravity of some human souls never ceases to disappoint me. Fortunately, the potential to rise above it all also never ceases to amaze me.

Despite this little girl's inability to speak or even to laugh, a tremendously brave couple took her in and have made tremendous progress in helping her join the human race.

Little Dani still has so many challenges before her, and who knows if she'll ever make it all the way into the life God intended her to have, but she can now eat, move about, and communicate on a limited level. With a miracle from God, who knows. But her life is already so much more than it was.

There is video, audio and text about Dani here. It's a tremendous story of both the highs and lows of human potential. Don't click the link if you aren't prepared to have your heart broken. But say a prayer for this girl and her parents, whether you click the link or not.


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