The mystery behind the girl in the window all started in 2005 when police raided a home in Plant City, Florida, and found a toddler hidden away in a dark room. She was completely secluded from her mother, her mother's boyfriend, and her two adult brothers, who also lived in the house. The conditions she was found living in were so horrific, they caused child abuse investigators and police on the scene to vomit. Excrement lined the walls, cockroaches scurried across the floors, and the poor girl was surrounded by old, used diapers.
Similar to other children who have experienced severe neglect and been denied any kind of social interaction, the girl suffered from a variety of psychological conditions that made it incredibly difficult for her to live anything close to a normal life after her rescue. Even after years of treatment and care, doctors and specialists were completely unaware of what her prognosis might be in the future, as they had never dealt with such a severe case of abuse before.
This tragic story only came to the public's attention thanks to the work of several journalists from The Tampa Bay Times, who played an integral part not only in covering the story of Danielle Lierow, but also in checking back in on her condition over the next decade. Without them, the plight of this so-called feral child might never have come to light.
Police Found Danielle Naked And Alone In A Dirty Room
When Danielle was first found, she was being kept in a tiny, unlit room in the back of a worn-down house. At 7 years old, she weighed just 46 pounds and had only an old moldy mattress to sleep on. What really shocked Mark Holste, the police officer who found her, was that the young girl was completely naked except for a diaper that had obviously not been changed in some time. Her lack of clothing and poor hygiene revealed the extent of her neglect – and with her ribs and collar bones sticking out from beneath her skin, it became obvious that this was an emergency situation.
The girl was not only severely malnourished, but was also covered in insect bites and infections. In a near-comatose condition, the police suspected she had never received any kind of medical treatment, and would need immediate care to survive. The police and Florida Department of Children and Families officer rushed her to the nearest hospital, despite her mother's protests.
The Conditions Danielle Was Living In Were Truly Horrendous
The state of the house Danielle was living in was utterly horrifying. The first child abuse investigator on the scene was found crying uncontrollably in her car, as she was unprepared for the abject barbarity she witnessed in the home. When police finally arrived, the first officer through the door had to leave after seconds to vomit, due to the sheer stench inside the home.
“I’ve been in rooms with bodies rotting there for a week and it never stunk that bad,” Detective Mark Holste said. “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.”
According to those who were present during the discovery in 2005, this was the worst home they had ever seen people living in. Everything was covered in filth; dirt coated the walls and floors. Thousands of cockroaches swarmed every room, and had made their way into the walls, cupboards, and kitchen appliances. It was practically impossible to walk around the building without stepping on them.
The girl’s urine-covered mattress was lying on the floor without any frame and, surrounded by dozens of used diapers and broken glass, Danielle was found curled up in the corner covered in bites from the bugs and insects around her. There were no clothes or toys in the room, other than those that had long been infested with maggots, leaving the police at the scene wanting to arrest the mother immediately.
What made matters even worse was the amount of people living in the space. Danielle’s mother and two adult brothers lived there, along with her mother’s boyfriend. Yet, none of them bothered to clean at all - nor to care for Danielle.
Doctors Determined Danielle Had No Diagnosable Ailments, But Had Been Severely Neglected
By the time doctors treated Danielle and brought her back to nearly full health, they tested her for a slew of different mental and physical conditions that might explain her severe reclusion. It was clear she could not communicate properly and had no real social skills; however, doctors were quickly able to rule out conditions such as autism and cerebral palsy, even though she showed no emotions and had no reactions to external stimuli. The girl would not look people in the eye, presumably because she barely interacted with others during her short life. Danielle couldn’t even eat solid food, and weighed only 46 pounds when she first arrived at the hospital.
The general consensus among medical professionals was that Danielle had simply not developed the same skills as children raised in healthy home environments. Without access to other children, education, or substantial interactions with the rest of the people living in the house, she had effectively been left to fend for herself.
No One Knew The Girl Existed For Years
As far as anyone in the neighborhood knew, Danielle didn’t exist at all. She lived in the filthy house with her mother and two brothers for three years before anyone even caught a glimpse of her. Then, when she was five years old, a resident noticed the youngster peek out of the window between the broken pieces of glass. Because of the darkness of the room she was being kept in, it was hard for any passers-by to get a good look at her. One thing was certain, though - the girl was never seen leaving the house, and had never been outside to play in the sun.
It wasn’t until another two years passed that the police and the Florida Department of Children and Families began investigating the possibility of child neglect after someone finally reported their suspicions.