And Gustavo did an outstanding job as a father and he doted on his daughter: “She was his life. He would always say she was his princess,” a family friend went on to recall.1 Initially, he was clueless on how to raise a child but with help from his co-workers and relatives, Gustavo mastered diapering and feeding. When the time came, Gustavo enrolled Elisa in the prestigious Montessori Day School in Brooklyn. “You couldn’t resist that smile. Elisa always clung to people, she had so much love,” recollected one of her teachers, Barbara Simmons.2 However, as things were finally on the upswing in Elisa’s life, an affidavit was signed which stated that Awilda had overcome her addiction and now had a permanent accommodation at the Farragut Houses in Brooklyn, with her new husband. On paper, it appeared as though Awilda finally had her life together and now she wanted her daughter back.
By 1991, Awilda was granted unsupervised visitation with Elisa. Awilda’s two eldest children soon informed relatives that during these visits, Awilda would brutally beat Elisa and claim that she was possessed by the devil. You would think that upon hearing this information, these relatives would take that information straight to authorities. They did not. Elisa began to seem scared and withdrawn and not her usual giddy self. Gustavo and a number of Elisa’s teachers noticed that she often arrived back home from these visits bearing bruising. On one occasion, Elisa had bruising around her genitalia. It was observed by Gustavo that Elisa had started to wet the bed and would often be sick once returning home from Awilda. Gustavo went straight to New York’s Child Welfare Administration to report these findings, as did one of Elisa’s teachers. Elisa herself even confessed to the abuse to a social worker.
Gustavo applied to have the visitation rights ceased. Tragically, the courts denied his application and the visitations were allowed to continue. By 1993, Gustavo had purchased plane tickets and had planned to move back to Cuba, taking Elisa with him. However, Gustavo and Elisa never made the flight – Gustavo was rushed to hospital with respiratory complications and died from lung cancer on the very day they were scheduled to leave for Cuba – 26 May, 1994. The death of Gustavo was the nail in the coffin of Elisa escaping her abusive mother and ultimately, her untimely death.
Upon Gustavo’s death, Awilda filed for full custody of Elisa and was supported by social workers and Elisa’s court-appointed lawyer who claimed that Elisa wanted to be with her mother. Awilda was subsequently granted temporary custody and upon hearing this alarming news, Elsa Canizares, Gustavo’s cousin, also filed for custody. The head teacher of Elisa’s school and even Prince Michael of Greece – who had met Elisa when he visited her school – wrote letters to the Judge, informing him of the torment Elisa had experienced at the hands of her own mother. Prince Michael even offered Elisa a scholarship to attend private school through to grade 12. They all argued that Elisa wouldn’t stand a chance if placed in custody of her mother. Regardless of the mounting evidence as to why Awilda was not a suitable mother, in 1994, she was granted full and permanent custody of Elisa by judge Phoebe Greenbaum, who in 1979, denied a father custody of his 10-year-old son, stating that the boy’s grandparents were his “psychological parents.”3 It was a decision that would prove to be fatal.
As soon as Elisa moved in with her mother, the abuse continued. Elisa was taken out of her prestigious school and sent to a public one. Here, she was reported as being withdrawn and uncommunicative. She was also reported to be riddled with bruises each week and appeared to have difficulty walking. Again, this clear evidence of abuse was reported but these reports were discarded due to apparently being “not reportable.” Upon finding out that the school had reported suspicions of child abuse, Awilda withdrew Elisa from the school. Now, Elisa had nowhere to escape her mother, her tormentor. She would be locked in her bedroom 24 hours seven days a week. Elisa wouldn’t even be allowed out to use the bathroom and would defecate the bed.
Awilda started to tell relatives that Elisa was possessed by the devil and that she had been put under a spell by her father. Awilda’s brother, Rafael Nahones, and her sister, Monsarrate Torres, said they believed the tall tales of Elsa’s demons and therefore never questioned their sister’s torment of Elisa. Neighbours would say they frequently heard Elisa screaming for help and begging her mother to stop hurting her. “We thought it was their way of disciplining the kids,” said neighbour, Tony Ng.
The apartment was a home of horrors to say the very least. Elisa would be forced to eat her own excrement, her head would be used as a mop, she would be beaten with various objects and burnt and she would be sexually assaulted with a hairbrush and toothbrush. Elisa was deprived of food while she watched her half-siblings chow down on dinner every night. Carlos Lopez, Awilda’s husband, would even encourage his own children to hit Elisa. On 15 November, 1994, Awilda called her sister and told her that Elisa was “like retarded on the bed,” and that she had some sort of fluid leaking from her nose and mouth. The fluid was brain fluid. Elisa was left on the bed until the following day when Awilda invited a neighbour inside to view the body. Upon viewing Elisa’s body the neighbour immediately called an ambulance but it was far too late. Elisa was dead at just 6-years-old.
Awilda would eventually confess that she had thrown Elisa head first into a concrete wall two days before the ambulance was called. She revealed that Elisa hadn’t spoken or moved since the incident. Medical examiners were horrified at the sight of little Elisa and couldn’t even begin to imagine the torture she had endured by somebody who was supposed to be her caregiver. Her lifeless body reflected years of abuse; she had numerous injuries which included broken fingers (one finger bone was even protruding through the skin), burns and cuts over her head, face, and body, and internal injuries. An autopsy also revealed that her genitalia and rectum bore signs of trauma, including tearing. It was shown that all of the injuries had been sustained over a period of time; it was evident that Elisa had been tortured from the moment she entered the apartment. The abuse surrounding this case is extremely abhorrent but even more abhorrent is the fact that it was easily preventable had child services responded accordingly.
Elisa was buried in a white coffin so small that there was only room for four pallbearers. At the front was Elsa Canizares, Gustavo’s cousin who had fought for custody of Elisa. Snow blanketed the ground on Cypress Hills Cemetery where Elisa was to be buried following the sombre funeral at Ponce Funeral Home in Bushwick, Brooklyn. As the dainty coffin was lowered into the ground, mourners threw in pink carnations. Elisa was buried in a white lace dress that draped over her thin and frail body. On her head, she wore a garland made of white flowers that couldn’t quite conceal the bruise near her temple; a grim reminder of the abuse she sustained before her death. During her funeral, the Rev. Gianni Agostinelli blamed “the silence of many and neglect of child welfare institutions,” for the death of Elisa.4 The Daily News wrote in their front-page editorial: “Eliza Izquierdo is finally at peace. May her mother never find a moment of it again.”
In June of 1996, Awilda Lopez pleaded guilty to murder after maintaining her innocence for months. She cried during the court proceeding in Manhattan Supreme Court before finally admitting that she had thrown Elisa at the wall. “Elisa languished unconscious in the apartment until the next day with brain fluid leaking from an ear,” said Assistant Manhattan District Attorney Donna Henken.5 According to Awilda’s lawyer, she was “horrified by her own actions.” Prosecutors had agreed to Awilda’s plea to spare her two surviving children the trauma of reliving Elisa’s death at a trial.
Awilda was sentenced to 15 years to life imprisonment where she has received all of the protections of the legal system – the same very system that failed to save Elisa. The tragic life and death of Elisa Izquierdo became a symbol of the failures in New York’s Child Welfare Administration and Family Court, whose bureaucracy allowed this little girl to slip right through the cracks and into her grave. The story became a national disgrace and lawyers would cite the case as an example of chronic and systemic problems. By 1996, Mayor Giuliani declared that he would abolish the city’s Child Welfare Administration and rebuild it from top to bottom. He also signed Elisa’s Law into legislation which was designed to balance the need for increased accountability through public awareness and government oversight.
- Time, 24 June, 2001 – “Abandoned to her Fate”
- New York Daily, 28 November, 1995 – “A Bitter Last Farewell”
- Akron Beacon Journal, 30 November, 1995 – “Death of an Abused Girl”
- New York Daily News, 30 November, 1995 – “Slain 6-Year-Old Is Laid to Rest”
- New York Daily News, 25 June, 1996 – “Mom Pleads Guilty to Elisa’s Murder”
I hope Elisa and her father are together and reunited in heaven. The mother being eligible for parole is disgusting.
Oh how I hope that bitch of a mother suffers
I feel the same way too. Bitch is too good a word. Demon suits it.
To Bad they didnt throw her against the concrete wall After doing all of the other tortures first…This should never happen…But it still does…Child Abuse Is Everyones Business.
Thru tears I write this…I can’t begin to imagine what horrors that baby went thru. I hope she’s in a better place and her birth monster will never be free again! Our system proves to be horrific if anything. No one helped her…now that’s a tragedy in itself. That stupid judge is just as guilty. I hope she is paying for her mistakes as well. Humans are the only real monsters on earth. RIP little one♡♡♡♡♡♡♡
He died the day of their scheduled departure…. that’s santeria at its finest. She killed him just to get to her.
I’m a Survivor from horrific child abuse. I went from the frying pan into the fire when l married l was beaten for years not knowing any other type of treatment. I was saved by an emergency room nurse and a gay man, who had more courage rescuing me than I did. When l see articles like this l cry, because it brings back terrible, unrelenting memories.
Get your own soap box. “I was abused too” is kind of an inappropriate response to an article like this.
I guess you’d know about inappropriate responses.
I actually agree with Don.
It’s a forum for sharing and helping, hoping to heal and help others. You clearly need help to comment what you you did. Why spend so much energy on hate when love and respect are more important
Just shut up. You don’t understand what someone has been through so give some respect. And this is, if you cared, an inappropriate response.
I am glad for you that you got the help Deb, so many innocent children abused in this world.I hope you continue to do good.
When we are raised to hate ourselves, we believe all the abuse we receive is justified. We believe we are unworthy of love,so when we grow up,we believe no one could love us.
Far too true, and it breaks my heart 💔
More courage than you did??? You are a survivor, you are strong. Never ever think you are not, you were, at the time, caught in a never ending cycle, but you have, hopefully healed and you are strong and courageous ❤
I wish people would just recognize they can’t handle kids and place them with the Ministry (for adoption) or better yet, use birth control. There are so many amazing families out there who would have given anything to adopt a little boy or girl.
Well, the issue is that the idea of “there’s so many families wanting to adopt!” is a myth. There are good families out looking to adopt sure, but they tend to only want a certain demographic of child. People generally only want to adopt healthy, infant-toddler, and usually white children. That’s why you’re right, birth control must absolutely be destigmatized and made easily accessible to all communities. Period. And personally, abortion needs to be much easier too. Far more humane than this alternative. The UPMOST importance though is to END sexism in the family courts once and for all. There… Read more »
Did you really capitalize “uPmost?”
So what is your problem with that?
isn’t it “utmost”? and what’s wrong with any word being in caps?
This is such heavy reading that I’m thankful for the chuckle on the wrong word, and then the cherry on top with what’s wrong with capitalizing it going so far over the head. I don’t need a bunch of replies. This was made specific to this commentor. Just the ha ha I needed with such heavy reading. Thanks..
It’s amazing that you think abortion is not murder. All lives, from embryos to fetuses are “human beings”. Engage sex responsibly, only animals engage impulsive sex.
Id rather a thousand dead insentient tadpoles than one abused neglected or molested child. Get your priorities in check and join reality. Abstinence programs dont work.
What? A thousand dead ‘insentient‘ tadpoles? That’s not actually a word, but besides that (fairly important) point, what is that comment supposed to mean?
It’s killing a child, abortion is, anyway you look at it. These women, and men for that matter, all know what it takes to prevent pregnancy. It’s amazing when a pregnant women is murdered the jerk who did it gets charged for 2 murders but women can do it daily, multiple times with abortion.
Human beings ARE animals.
Have you ever told a man no when he wanted sex? Not all men, but some can’t handle REJECTION!!!
What is amazing is that anti-choicers will take any and every tragedy to let us all know how enlightened “pro-lifers” supposedly are and how wrong anyone who dares not think exactly like them are always wrong. There is a reason that close to 80% of the American population support a woman’s right to choose.
“People generally only want to adopt healthy, infant-toddler, and usually white children.”
That fucking stupid sentence ruins the rest of whatever otherwise sensible statement you may have been trying to make……..
I guess statistics and facts are a threat to your ideals? She is very much correct if you could be bothered to do 10 minutes of research but since such would prove how lacking in knowledge you truly are on this topic, doubtful you will ever be compelled to actually educate yourself on what you spout off.
We must make birth control mandatory for everyone all the time, no exceptions. We must make a law where people should use birth control every time they “do it”. I wholeheartedly agree with you, Swankerz, birth control must be mandatory according to law.
They’re not going to place the child anywhere because they like to abuse the child. Sick bastards. I’d love to be able to get my hands on them.
This is even more horrifying than the Sylvia Likens case. This child’s own mother did this to her! I looked it up and Judge Greenbaum is listed as a distinguished jurist, today and is still practicing. I hope there was a law suit!
Sadly, she didn’t get a lawsuit.
The judge that give the mother custody even with all the evidence of abuse should be in the cell next to the mothef
I hope a person like me residing near that mother of hers will read this, especially in the case she gets released.
I like how you think
I’m sorry sweet baby girl.
I am in shock that the mother only got 15yrs! that is not justice for Elisa who thanks to all the people who let her down badly. Shame on them.
Awilda was sentenced to 15 years to life imprisonment
That sentence of 15yrs is a joke, poor little Elisa lost her life to this mommy MONSTER!
I pray that this monster is not paroled. She should rot in jail for what she did to her daughter.
She is, sadly.
This happens so often. People report things and the child services does nothing. IN this case the mother was given custody again. People reported hearing the child screaming don’t hurt me, yet not a thing was done to help the little girl. Why. May the child services people rot in hell
How can any judge NOT give a life sentence for murder!?! That is not justice. I hope the bitch got abused daily in prison. Hell isn’t even enough punishment for this kind of evil
Neighbors heard the child screaming and crying for help basically, but they thought that was just their way of disciplining their kids??? WTF. And all the judges and other workers who ignored Elisa and gave her mother custody should be imprisoned for a long time and those judges should be disgraced and removed
yes I was reading that part too by the neighbor Tony Ng but you know, people are generally like that. A part of them doesnt want to think something bad is happening and also they probably were scared to get involved. I mean look at that woman’s face – she looks like a cannibal.
This baby would still be alive. If the sorry people that gave her back to this evil woman. I want call her mama because a mama should never do her child like this. And why didn’t she get life or the electric char. I think this is a sorry country. This little baby was addictive to drugs when she was born and they give her to this sorry mother. What’s wrong with these crazy people. They didn’t care about this child. It’s so sad she was the one that died. While her sorry mother is still living.
You’re so pretty Elisa, so dignified looking. Jesus has you in His safe strong arms.
Where was any higher power when this little girl was being tortured for literally years?
Ask Him when you’re standing before Him.
Why this little guy born 🥺🥺🥺 ! I hate mothers just like this .. how can anyone say that woman is a mother ….. Demon should see just like people who kill little buddies’ future …. and demon should destroy them !!!! Forever !!!!
The fact that most mom dont want there kids to get raped is a lot and her mom is doing that to er she was about to get saved but i didn’t work here mom should suffer the way she did and worse she was just 6 years old and had so much ahead of here already set at least she dosen’t have to suffer any more and is with her dad in heaven R.I.P Elisa <3
I have read about this before.. it truly is a horrible horrible crime. They father was amazing and the fact he died just before they could escape a life together kills me.
That thing is a demon and I wish so much I could get my hands on her.
The judge…. well I’m sure you can tell how I feel about they thing…
May she be with her father together and at peace. X
Awilda’s sister and brother really believed that this baby was possessed by demons…so they just let the torture continue…come on now…other people heard her crying out for help but they thought that was just punishment…omg…and the courts really turned a blind eye to the school and family members who tried to help…we got to do better people
I dont normally comment on articles, however this story really is truly abhorrent. How a mother can be so cruel is beyond my imagination. The child protective services all over the world really is a shambles but the judge who granted full custody to the mother even knowing there was signs of abuse is disgusting. I wonder the judge sleeps well at night.
May her memory be an eternal light of God…
And justice will come for Elisa ♡
Also let Judge Phoebe Greenbaum know she will he judged at the end of her time!!! SHAME on her decision!
Poor baby and she lost her father and she suffered for no reason.
This mother was jealous of her own child! The child protective service is a bunch of crap! This is not the type of job that you take if you truly don’t want to do the service and sit at your desk filing you nails.