Elisa Izquierdo
February 11, 1989 - November 22, 1995
Find A Grave Memorial

On the day she was to be sent to Cuba in order to keep her away from a mother who had no business having her, Elisa Izquierdo's father, Gustavo Izquierdo, died of Cancer, that was May 26, 1994 and it would prove to be the end of a great life this beautiful little girl had become used to.

Gustavo met Awilda Lopez in a homeless shelter in 1987 where he served food she was living with her two children. The two began a relationship which lasted until Awilda started using Crack, but she was already pregnant. Elisa Izquierdo was born addicted to the drug and CPS took the baby away from her, giving custody to Gustavo. Gustavo was a proud father who doted on his child, dressing her like a doll and sending her to a YMCA Montessori School. Gustavo took very good care of his daughter, even learning how to do her hair perfectly. Life was good for the father and daughter. Gustavo did all he could to keep Awilda out of his daughter's life.

Eventually, Awilda entered a drug rehab program and then in 1991, she got married and the court granted her visitation for ever other weekend. When Gustavo and Elisa's teachers started to noticed that she would come back from the visits bruised and upset, sometimes to the point of vomiting, they contacted police. The court allowed the visits to continue with the condition that Awilda not spank or hit the child. Tragically, in May of 1994, Gustavo went in to the hospital because his lungs hurt and was diagnosed with Cancer, dying on May 26th.

Awilda had five other children in her home, no job and her husband was in prison for stabbing her 17 times, even so, she was granted temporary custody of Elisa over Gustavo's cousin, Elsa Canizares, who wanted to get custody of her. Even with letters from the head of the school and Prince Michael in support of Elsa taking Elisa in, custody sill went to Awilda. Judge Phoebe Greenbaum would not consider the abuse the which had been reported:

"There was a solution. There were people ready to take this child, to love this child. But
Greenbaum ruled in favor of Lopez"
Prince Michael - Of Greece

Apparently, Awilda had a Legal Aid lawyer, a Social Worker and the law was on her side because their first goal is to keep families together, even when it's an unfit situation. It was immediately noticeable that Elisa was declining in health and even her social behavior. Prince Michael had offered to pay to keep Elisa in the private Montessori School she was used to attending, but Awilda wouldn't let him. Elisa was enrolled in a public school. Officials at the school were concerned with the way Elisa would walk unevenly and not play with the other children as well as a bruise on her head and they called Child Welfare services, this would be the fifth time someone had called in about Elisa. Kathryn Croft, from CWS would not comment on the case because of confidentiality laws, but Andrew Lachman, who spoke on behalf of the school, said the there had not been an investigation because there was not enough evidence in the opinion of CWS.

Elisa was taken out of the school and not enrolled in any other school and ended up being held in her room and was seen by few people. Not allowed to even watch television or eat meals with the other children in the home, who all never showed any signs of abuse. Elisa was forced to use her bed or a pot in the room if she had to use the bathroom, the pot was reported to have overflowed and leaked into the apartment below the one she lived in.

At 9:24 a.m. on November 22nd, the day before Thanksgiving, a call came in and when rescuers arrived at the home after a 911 call was made, nothing could prepare them for what they were about to see. Taking Elisa from her bed, rescuers noticed red spots which appeared to be welts or cigarette burns, all over her body. Elisa had bruises on her face, temple and a huge bruise near her right kidney. On her genitals were wounds and on her right hand, her pinkie bone was poking out of the skin. CPR was started, but would not work:

"In my 22 years of services, this is the worst case of child abuse I have ever seen"
Police Lt. Luis Gonzalez

An autopsy would reveal that Elisa had been hit or had hit her head so hard, that her brain hemorrhaged:

"Something like this shouldn't happen. We're all accountable"
Rudolph Giuliani - New York Mayor

Of course LATER, neighbors would say that they were able to hear Elisa through the walls begging her mother to stop and saying she was sorry. Some said they called to make reports about it and nothing was done. Awilda Lopez was arrested that afternoon, screaming "I didn't do it" as police took her away. Though she showed very little emotion after being arrested, she admitted that on November 20 she had hit Elisa so hard that she ran head first into a cement wall and did not walk or talk after that and that she died the next day, though Awilda would not get help for her child until the 22nd and then she had a neighbor call for help instead of calling herself. Awilda tried to say that Elisa was possessed by Satan and had died because she was evil and at one point she says that she put snakes down the child's throat to get the demons out and used her hair as a mop by holding her upside down. At autopsy, the marks that were originally thought to be burns or welts, were marks made by a round ring and her brothers and sisters said that the wounds to her genitals were made by a brush.

Awilda plead not guilty at first. In June of 1996, she was in court,  limping into the courtroom, seemingly not able to breathe very well, rocking in her chair and crying, sitting next to her lawyer. Awilda, who was 29 years old at the time, had been offered a plea deal of 15 years to life in exchange for pleading guilty to murdering her daughter.  In court the brutal truth was repeated for the judge, how Awilda has beaten and tortured Elisa and then left her dying and alone for two days:

"Ms Lopez, is that what happened"
Justice Alvin Schlesinger

Awilda replied by saying "Ok" to which the Judge said:

"Don't ok me. You are not making a bargain. Is that what happened"

Awilda then stated, "Yes, it happened".

Daniel J. Ollen, her lawyer said:

"She is horrified by her actions. But it is hard for her to acknowledge what she did. It is
hard for her to say the words"

Awilda was sentenced to life and would have to serve at least 15 years in prison before she could go up for parole. The District Attorney said that he had offered her the deal in order to prevent adding trauma on to her children who would have to testify against her in court:

"Fifteen to life is a tough sentence. I'm not going to predict what a parole board will do,
we hope she serves longer than 15 years. We did the right thing"

Elisa was on the cover of "Time" magazine in December of 1995

Mayor Giuliani set out to overhaul that Child Welfare Agency and caseworkers were suspended as well as a supervisor, which brought about legislation which would open the records on child abuse cases, to public inspection:

"The face of Awilda Lopez pales in comparison to the death of her child and the legacy
of that death. The legacy is one of opportunity, an opportunity to reform child welfare that
should have happened decades ago"
Nicholas Scoppetta - Commissioner of the Administration for Children's Services

In February of 1996, Governor George E Pataki singed into legislation Elisa's Law.

UPDATE: November 26, 2014

In May of 1996 a report came out that said Awilda Lopez had tried to kill herself, this happened just 24 hours after she was on a television show giving an interview and openly said she wanted to kill herself:

"She's been feeling real bad. She always said she wanted to kill herself, but I didn't
think she would get the chance to do it"
Diana Mahones - Sister

Awilda was being interviewed in the jail by a show called "The Rolonda Show" and when asked if she had thought about killing herself she said:

"I want to kill myself, I do. But not because that they say I murder my daughter. I can't
see my kids. I don't have my daughter with me. What I have"

I guess Awilda didn't find anything wrong with the fact that she lost her children due to her own actions.

In March of 2014 Dalia Soto still remembered Elisa as the little girl who lived in the neighborhood:

"Since this happened, I feel like I am attached to the this little girl"

As of March of 2014, nothing had been done as far as memorializing Elisa and Dalia wanted to do something about that. Dalia was going to petition the Community Board 3 to name a small strip of land on Pike Street, Elisa Izquierdo Park:

"It was something that touched everybody's heart by the way
she was tortured and killed. It moved everybody's heart"

This would not be the first time Dalia had tried to get something done to memorialize Elisa. In 1996 she had tried to get a park at the apartment complex where Elisa lived, named after Elisa and that proposal was rejected by the tenant association:

"Before I die, I want to see something in her name"

State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver had helped to get Elisa's Law passed in 1996 and he was in support of having a memorial in her name:

"It would be fitting to honor Elisa's memory and a tribute to her short life to have a
street named for her in a neighborhood that so deeply mourned her loss"

Dalia had collected more than 400 signatures of people who were in support of the memorial. The Community Board 3 will consider the proposal and then the City Council would make the final decision on if the street could be named after Elisa:

"It was close to home. We heard stories of this happening in other places, but this
was really close to home:
Elsa Quinones

Elsa had lived in the neighborhood since 1957 and she felt that a sign dedicated to Elisa would help people to remember to watch for child abuse:

"Maybe people will pass by and wonder why and people will tell them why"

In the year 2010, Awilda had come up for parole and she was denied.

I want to again thank Cat who has been so helpful in keeping the pages updated and making sure that she lets me know about children who need to be added to the site.

Death occurred in the state of New York

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