CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A community rallied Saturday around a little girl who, just two months ago, was clinging to life.
Kilah Davenport nearly died when police said her step-father beat her severely. Joshua Houser, 22, sits in the Union County jail under a $1 million bond charged with the crime.
Doctors told Kilah’s mother she would remain in a vegetative state. Since then, the three-year-old has made slow progress with limited movement – but it is progress. Her mother, Kirbi Davenport, said she can even stand with help, but may never fully recover.
“She's in her own little prison,” explained Kirbi Davenport, “stuck by herself because she can't understand why can't I do this anymore.”
Saturday, Kilah lay sleeping in a room full of people at Crown Point Covenant Church in Matthews, who all came to support her. The benefit barbeque drew church members, people from all over, even lawmakers. Organizers estimated they raised $5000 for the family.
They stared at Kilah’s angelic face, and then explained how they’re supporting a new law to make sentences tougher for child abusers. They’re rallying behind “Kilah’s Law.”
“We want stiffer penalties,” said Leslie Davenport, Kilah’s “nana,” or grandmother. “The person who did this to Kilah will only spend between four and eight years in prison.”
“We want to protect other children,” added Kirbi Davenport.
They want to change the penalty for child abuse to a Class B1 felony, which could potentially give an abuser 25 years to life in prison, according to Jeff Gerber of the Justice For All Coalition. Currently, said Gerber, child abuse is a Class C felony, which results in 44 to 92 months in prison.
The law is being drafted, and Rep. Craig Horn of Union County has already agreed to be one of four primary sponsors.
“A person that attacks a child is prosecuted at the same level as a person who attacks an adult,” said Rep. Horn. “Now you can't quite tell me that… the abuse of a defenseless child is quite the same category as an assault on an adult that can protect themselves.”
The law would also propose a child abuser registry, much like North Carolina’s sex offender registry, though Horn admits that part of the law might be harder to pass.
Leslie Davenport is still hopeful.
“We know it's not going to save everybody's lives,” she said, “but if we can help one family not have to go through what we've gone through, it'll make all the difference to us .”
The town of Indian Trail, where Kilah’s family lived when she was injured, will consider a resolution supporting Kilah’s Law at its meeting on August 14. The town of Stallings will consider it a day sooner.
Rep. Horn hopes to have the law drafted so it can be introduced on the first day of the 2013 Legislative Session in January.
Meanwhile, Kirbi Davenport’s parents continue to help her care for Kilah. Kirbi describes Kilah as a “28-pound infant” who wants to be held all the time, and can do little for herself.
Compounding her workload, she is several months pregnant with another child from the husband who now sits in jail. She and her mother are buoyed by Kilah’s small improvements.
“It's just going to take a little time,” said Leslie Davenport. “A little time, and lots of prayers.”