Editorial: Lilly's grit, resilience inspire a community

Lilly Manning is moving past her childhood of abuse and looking to her future.
Lilly Manning is moving past her childhood of abuse and looking to her future.

The system utterly failed Lilly Manning, but now the community is showing it cares about the "girl with 100 scars."

It's the least we can do.

Two Sundays ago, The Bee's Marjie Lundstrom powerfully chronicled how, for six long years, Lilly's great aunt and her husband repeatedly abused her in horrific ways. They scalded her with boiling water. They kicked her in the head with a steel-toed boot. They used pliers to squeeze and pull her fingers and toes. They stuffed her in a tiny closet in their south Sacramento home for weeks at a time.

Finally, in 2007 when Lilly was 15, she escaped and the extent of her ordeal became clear. Doctors found more than 100 scars and injuries on her body.

Last Friday, Lilly went to court to face her great-aunt, who had adopted her. "I'm not scared anymore," she told Lillian Manning-Horvath, who was sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole for the tortures she inflicted. Her husband is already serving a life sentence for the abuse.

Troubling questions about the case need to be answered.

How did someone with a history of mental illness like Manning-Horvath get custody of Lilly and her siblings? Did Sacramento County's Child Protective Services look into the abuse? Did schools and police miss chances to rescue her?

Lilly, now 19, is seeking her records to fill in the blank pages of her personal history.

But she's also looking forward – to fully recovering from her injuries, maybe to more college classes, perhaps to a career as a personal trainer or in the Army.

Her resilience and her spirit are remarkable. It's why complete strangers are so drawn to her story and so willing to help. "Lilly appears to be motivated to not let her past define who and what she will become," wrote one reader who wants to help pay for her education. "Her future is bright so long as she has the support to pursue her dreams."

The outpouring of support has also included offers of dance lessons, massage therapy, opera tickets. An account set up for her at Bank of America has more than $300 in donations so far.

Freed from her tormentor, Lilly has her whole life ahead of her. "I want to conquer the world," she told The Bee. "I want to do something big."

Want to help?

An account has been set up for Lilly Manning. Donations will be accepted at any Bank of America branch, and checks in her name can be mailed to:

Bank of America

Fort Sutter branch

1100 Alhambra Blvd.

Sacramento, CA 95816

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