the girl
in the window

She was a stranger to the world. She had never seen a doctor, never been to school. She couldn’t speak or feed herself. Authorities had discovered the rarest of creatures: a feral child.

In a special report, writer Lane DeGregory and photographers Melissa Lyttle and Lara Cerri document the extraordinary case of a girl who was rescued and given a chance at a better life.

Can love and caring make up for years of neglect?

2009 Pulitzer Prize winner


About the stories

Tampa Bay Times reporter Lane DeGregory and Times photographer Melissa Lyttle met Dani and her new family at their Florida home in 2008 and revisited them in 2011, at their farm in Tennessee. DeGregory and Times photographer Lara Cerri traveled to Tennessee in the fall of 2017 to update Dani’s story.

“The Girl in the Window” remains the most popular story in the history of, with more than 1.5 million page views since its publication in August 2008.

About the reporters

Lane DeGregory
is a Pulitzer Prize-winning Tampa Bay Times reporter who prefers writing about people in the shadows. Lane graduated from the University of Virginia, where she was editor in chief of the Cavalier Daily student newspaper. Later, she earned a master’s degree in rhetoric and communication studies from the University of Virginia. She previously worked for the Daily Progress and The Virginian-Pilot and moved to Florida in 2000 to write for the Times. She has won dozens of national awards, including twice winning Scripps Howard’s Ernie Pyle Award for human interest writing, eight National Headliner Awards and been recognized eight times by the American Society of Newspaper Editors. She teaches at the University of South Florida, the Poynter Institute and journalism conferences across the world. Contact her at [email protected] or (727) 893-8825.
Melissa Lyttle
worked at newspapers, including the Tampa Bay Times, for 15 years and is now a freelance photographer in Los Angeles. She graduated from the University of Florida with a journalism degree. Her work has been published by,, Mother Jones, Esquire, ProPublica, Inc. Magazine, Mashable, The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The Intercept, Rolling Stone, Sports Illustrated, among others. She has been recognized by UNICEF, Photographer of the Year International, the National Press Photographers Association’s Best of Photojournalism, the Atlanta Photojournalism Seminar, the Southern Short Course, the Casey Medals for Meritorious Journalism, and the Alexia Foundation student grant. She is currently president of the NPPA. Contact her at [email protected] or (813) 215-8329. Follow her blog
Lara Cerri
has been covering community journalism as a Tampa Bay Times staff photojournalist since 2001. She has won first-place awards from Photographer of the Year International and the Association of Food Journalists. Her photography career began in her high school darkroom in Scottsdale, Ariz., where she was yearbook photo editor. She graduated from San Francisco State University with a journalism degree. She previously worked for The San Francisco Chronicle and The Evansville Courier & Press. She also has taught photojournalism at Indiana University and in St. Petersburg public schools. Contact her at [email protected].

Additional credits

  • Editors Maria Carrillo and Mike Wilson
  • Photo editor Patty Yablonski
  • Video production Danese Kenon and Jack Rowland
  • Story design Lyra Solochek, Martin Frobisher and Lauren Flannery
  • Research Caryn Baird


“The Girl in the Window” at your fingertips

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Pulitzer-Prize winning reporter Lane DeGregory discusses her stories and answers your questions in a weekly podcast.