GIRL IN THE WINDOW { 23 images } Created 19 Mar 2015


The veteran police detective who found Danielle said he'd never seen a worse case of abuse. Her emaciated, dirty frame was covered in insect bites. At 7, she was still wearing a diaper, one that was soaked and swollen, leaking from the legs, obviously not changed for days.
She was unable to speak and could only communicate in grunts. Isolated and neglected, she was a feral child.

In January 2008, writer Lane DeGregory and photographer Melissa Lyttle learned about Danielle's story from a source who called to say that after bouncing from foster families to nursing homes, the little girl had found a "forever family."

For the next six months, DeGregory and Lyttle documented Danielle as she was taught how to feed herself, mouth sounds in speech therapy, laugh when tickled -- as she learned how to be loved.

While the past was impossible to photograph, talking to doctors who examined her, judges and case workers who fought for her, and even the birth mother who did this to her helped piece together Danielle's history. Their stories helped shape the main question central to Danielle's story: Can love and caring make up for a lifetime of neglect?

The story hit the Web on a Friday afternoon. By midnight, so many readers had posted comments that the site shut down. "The Girl in the Window" generated more response than any piece of journalism ever published during the 124-year history of the St. Petersburg Times. The story touched people. It made them angry and hopeful, grateful and more aware. It helped raise awareness about child neglect, foster care and abuse investigations -- and tens of thousands of dollars in unsolicited contributions for Dani's long-term care.

Lane DeGregory's story went on to win the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing.
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