First, Kilah Davenports doctors said she wouldnt live. Then they said she would remain in a vegetative state, according to her family.
But 3-year-old Kilah, who in May was beaten almost to death, left Levine Childrens Hospital in Charlotte Thursday in a pink tutu.
An escort of motorcycles, firetrucks and police cars led her and her family to her grandmothers home in Concord.
Kirbi Davenport, Kilahs 22-year-old mother, cried before strapping Kilah into her car seat.
Its like taking her home again for the first time, like a newborn, she said. She hadnt left Kilahs side in the hospital for the two months her daughter spent there.
I mourn the loss of Kilah before, the old Kilah, because now you only get a smile now and then, Kirbi Davenport said. Its like I lost a baby but I gained a new baby. But shes in there, my Kilah. She looks at you and you know shes happy. She just cant get her smile to work.
September trial set
Joshua Houser, Kilahs 22-year-old stepfather, is charged with felony child abuse and is jailed on $1 million bond. His trial is scheduled for September in Mecklenburg Superior Court. If convicted, he faces 44 to 92 months in prison a possible sentence that family members say is too lenient.
Kilah had a broken collarbone, a fractured skull and brain damage after the May 16 incident in Indian Trail, according to Housers arrest warrant. The swelling and bleeding were so bad that doctors had to remove part of her skull to relieve pressure on her brain.
Fighting to change law
The Davenport family told themselves they couldnt let Kilahs suffering be for nothing. Now, theyre fighting to toughen the punishment of child abusers with legislation they call Kilahs Law.
Kilahs Law calls for stiffer penalties and longer sentences for felony child abusers, as well as a neighborhood registry similar to the one required of sex offenders. The law is expected to be introduced in the N.C. House at the beginning of the year.
Backing the law are Rep. Craig Horn, a Republican from Union County, Indian Trail Mayor Michael Alvarez and activist Jeff Gerber, who founded the Justice for All Coalition, a national group that advocates for tougher penalties in cases of violence against children and women.
Alvarez said the current law only gives criminals a slap on the wrist.
This childs going to have a lifetime recovery, he said. And with good behavior, these guys can be out of jail in 24 months. Its unacceptable.
Alvarez said he hopes for the law to be passed within a year.
If Kilahs Law becomes a reality, felony child abuse would carry a sentence of 25 years to life.
Leslie Davenport, Kilahs grandmother, said the priority now is to keep the law at the forefront of everyones minds.
Shes a victim, a survivor, a child who because of what happened to her is going to help save other lives, her grandmother said.
Kilah still has severe brain damage, but her family says she is rewriting the rules of her expected recovery.
She can take small bites of food, identify colors and breathe on her own. Last week she took five steps with help from a therapist.
These steps mean a lot more than her baby steps, Kilahs mother said.
Local members of the nonprofit motorcycle group Renegade Pigs, composed of active and retired law enforcement officers, said they were happy to lead Kilah home.
Anytime we can do anything good for the people, we do, said member Michael Hastings. To me, I had to hold back the tears. Nobody deserves that, especially not an innocent little girl.