Mourned 5-Year-Old Girl Inspires Crusade in Death
Jan. 05, 1988
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) _ Six years after a little girl was tortured to death, the compassion she sparked is fueling a crusade against child abuse.
Ursula Sunshine Assaid, 5, was starved and beaten for months before she died in Altamonte Springs in 1982. On Monday, her ashes were finally buried.
''Ursula's case is not unique, that's the horror of the whole thing,'' said Dana Weikel, who spoke at the memorial service and co-wrote a book, ''Death From Child Abuse ... and no one heard,'' recounting the case and telling how to recognize and report child abuse.
Ursula's misery was extreme.
According to Ms. Weikel, the boyfriend of Ursula's mother would keep the girl outside, ''without water and without a bathroom, and he would wait until nature took its course and she would wet her pants. Then he would bring her in the house, strip her, and start her marching and reciting the alphabet at the top of her lungs while he was waiting on the couch with a belt. If it was not letter-perfect he would beat her.''
''He would not feed her (in the beginning). Then he started to feed her soap ... She was made to stand at night in a half-packed suitcase; she was not allowed to sleep,'' said Ms. Weikel, of Orlando.
The girl's body was found in a weighted duffel bag in a retention pond.
Susan Assaid, Ursula's mother, was sentenced to 15 years in prison on a charge of manslaughter. Her boyfriend, Don McDougall, was convicted of second- degree murder and sentenced to 34 years in prison.
The trial disclosed that scores of people knew Ursula was being abused, and did nothing.
Neither of her autobiographers knew Ursula in life, but their book touched Valerie Baumgart, who started a group called Citizens Concerned for Children and raised money for a burial plot and marker for the girl's remains.
Ms. Weikel and co-author Eva Krupinsky now campaign around the nation against child abuse.
''This horror story is a reality that is going on every day in some child's life,'' said Ms. Weikel. ''Every year 2,000 children die from child abuse, and that's a conservative estimate.''
She said the two women have been taking their campaign to schools and hoispitals. In November, they appeared on Geraldo Rivera's national television show.
But their campaign is still very personal, Ms. Weikel said.
''Ursula comes into your heart and she doesn't leave,'' she said. ''And now I don't want her to leave.''