very Child Matters

Kilah had a broken collarbone, a fractured skull and brain damage. The swelling and bleeding were so bad that doctors had to remove part of her skull to relieve pressure on her brain. Joshua Houser, Kilah’s 22-year-old stepfather, is charged with felony child abuse and is jailed on $1 million bond. If convicted, he faces 44 to 92 months in prison – a possible sentence that family members say is too lenient.

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Child-abuse victim leaves hospital, inspires ‘Kilah’s Law’ for tougher penalties

kilah

Kilah Davenport leaves Levine Children’s Hospital on Thursday. Her stepfather is charged with felony child abuse after she was left with serious brain injuries last May. She spent 63 days in the hospital. Jeff Siner – jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

        First, Kilah Davenport’s doctors said she wouldn’t live. Then they said she would remain in a vegetative state, according to her family. But 3-year-old Kilah, who in May was beaten almost to death, left Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte Thursday in a pink tutu.An escort of motorcycles, firetrucks and police cars led her and her family to her grandmother’s home in Concord.Kirbi Davenport, Kilah’s 22-year-old mother, cried before strapping Kilah into her car seat.“It’s like taking her home again for the first time, like a newborn,” she said. She hadn’t left Kilah’s side in the hospital for the two months her daughter spent there.“I mourn the loss of Kilah before, the old Kilah, because now you only get a smile now and then,” Kirbi Davenport said. “It’s like I lost a baby but I gained a new baby. But she’s in there, my Kilah. She looks at you and you know she’s happy. She just can’t get her smile to work.”September trial setJoshua Houser, Kilah’s 22-year-old stepfather, is charged with felony child abuse and is jailed on $1 million bond. His trial is scheduled for September in Mecklenburg Superior Court. If convicted, he faces 44 to 92 months in prison – a possible sentence that family members say is too lenient.Kilah had a broken collarbone, a fractured skull and brain damage after the May 16 incident in Indian Trail, according to Houser’s arrest warrant. The swelling and bleeding were so bad that doctors had to remove part of her skull to relieve pressure on her brain.Fighting to change lawThe Davenport family told themselves they couldn’t let Kilah’s suffering be for nothing. Now, they’re fighting to toughen the punishment of child abusers with legislation they call Kilah’s Law.Kilah’s Law calls for stiffer penalties and longer sentences for felony child abusers, as well as a neighborhood registry similar to the one required of sex offenders. The law is expected to be introduced in the N.C. House at the beginning of the year.

***Backing the law are Rep. Craig Horn, a Republican from Union County, Indian Trail Mayor Michael Alvarez and activist Jeff Gerber, who founded the Justice for All Coalition, a national group that advocates for tougher penalties in cases of violence against children and women.Alvarez said the current law only gives criminals a slap on the wrist.“This child’s going to have a lifetime recovery,” he said. “And with good behavior, these guys can be out of jail in 24 months. It’s unacceptable.”Alvarez said he hopes for the law to be passed within a year.If Kilah’s Law becomes a reality, felony child abuse would carry a sentence of 25 years to life.Leslie Davenport, Kilah’s grandmother, said the priority now is to keep the law at the forefront of everyone’s minds.“She’s a victim, a survivor, a child who because of what happened to her is going to help save other lives,” her grandmother said.Recovery stepsKilah still has severe brain damage, but her family says she is rewriting the rules of her expected recovery.She can take small bites of food, identify colors and breathe on her own. Last week she took five steps with help from a therapist.“These steps mean a lot more than her baby steps,” Kilah’s mother said.Local members of the nonprofit motorcycle group Renegade Pigs, composed of active and retired law enforcement officers, said they were happy to lead Kilah home.“Anytime we can do anything good for the people, we do,” said member Michael Hastings. “To me, I had to hold back the tears. Nobody deserves that, especially not an innocent little girl.”

*** i’m not in agreement with the politics of horn, alvarez or gerber – but, i do support Justice For All Coalition – and, despite the totality of gerber – he does support children – and, he’s done some great, great, great work defending those without a voice – abused children.  i do want to stress that i was raised in home that was in full support of a woman’s right to choose.  despite gerber’s position on that – i do believe in his fierce fight to help protect children who have already taken their first breath at life.  - rachel

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