Davenport family fights in Kilah’s honor to increase sentencing guidelines for child abusers

Shortly after Kilah Davenport was severely abused by her stepfather, the Davenports started to fight for increased penalties for felony child abusers.

The Cabarrus County family’s effort has gained considerable momentum and served as the impetus behind changing North Carolina’s child abuse sentencing guidelines.

Kilah’s Law, which was signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory on April 23, 2014, changed penalties for Class C felony child abusers from fewer than five years in prison to 25 years to life.

In May 2012, 3-year-old Kilah was beaten so severely she sustained a broken right clavicle, a fractured skull and severe brain damage. Kilah survived for 22 months before dying on March 13, 2014, just weeks after her stepfather was convicted of abusing her.

Joshua Houser, in February 2014 was convicted of felony child abuse charges for ramming his stepdaughter’s head through a wall in a fit of rage. Jurors deliberated less than six hours.

In September, 2014, a Union County grand jury indicted him on a second-degree murder charge. If convicted, he could face nearly 21 years in prison, legal experts said, but he could get credit for time served from the child abuse case.

The state medical examiner’s office ruled that Kilah’s death was a homicide, case records released in September show.

Charlotte Republican Robert Pittenger introduced the Kilah Davenport Child Protection Act, which was signed into law by President Barack Obama in May, 2014.

The federal law calls on the U.S. attorney general to issue a state-by-state report of child abuse prevention laws, with a goal of strengthening any state laws that fall short. Results from that report are due in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, Kilah’s grandmother, Leslie Davenport, uses social media to connect with families, spread awarenss and gain support to help strengthen laws nationwide.

“It’s all worth it because we’re getting people to realize that this is an epidemic,” Leslie said. “Eventually, we want to go back into the community and help people with some of the things we’ve already gone through. We want to make sure a family, or a child, has a resource to turn to.”

She’s also working with Central Piedmont Community College to create a child abuse awareness curriculum for middle, high school and college students, and two fundraisers are being planned for April, National Child Abuse Prevention Month.

“A little girl lost her life but one little girl can change the world and I believe Kilah is going to do that,” Leslie said. “I know I want to eradicate child abuse in my lifetime. If that’s not possible, I want to educate people so we can stop this -- and I want to increase the penalties so (abusers) don’t have the chance to get out and hurt another child.”

Kirbi Davenport, Kilah’s mother, said her family’s efforts ensure Kilah’s story will help others while raising awareness about child abuse.

“Never in a million years did I think I would lose my child because she was a victim of child abuse,” Kirbi said. “But reality is that Kilah was a survivor and her tiny body and all the damage from a moment of anger – by someone who was suppose to love and protect my child – took her life away. We were all robbed of Kilah’s future, but no one can take away her legacy.”

Kirbi’s advice for anyone going through a similar situation is to stand up for your child.

“Be a voice,” she said. “The more people who come forward to help in our efforts, the more people will stop turning a blind eye to child abuse. I have heard many politicians refer to our children as our future. Well, if they are, then we need to protect them.”