Squeal when I start?

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Hey guys, (new member/car owner)
I own a 2003 Ford Focus SPI 2.0 that has an issue I’d like to address. But let me take you back a minute so you can have the informational background before you give input.
When I got this car, it was an absolute mess. Interior was attacked by mildew, holes in the floor boards. It was owned by a mother of a few who trashed the car with crayons (which melted into the upholstery since it sat for 2 years with heat off and on from the summer), food smashed and molded on the floor. Battery was dead. A quick jumpstart and she was ready to drive. I got it home and drove it for a few days before I encountered a major issue. Car had a no crank/ no start. Checked some fuses, charged the battery again, minor diagnostics that I could do at home by myself. My best guess, and from what I’d been seeing on the worse side of YouTube was that the cables running throughout the starter had gone bad. Pulled it out and replaced it with a new one. Still wouldn’t start. Pulled the starter again to clean ground, positive and negative connections to the starter, and to the battery. Same issue. Went and rechecked the fuse box with a buddy of mine and found the fuse responsible for connecting power to the ignition and got it to crank, with no start. Made a moderate grinding sound as it was cranking over. Got it to the mechanic and he meddled a bit. Went a few days later to pick it up (since he got it running) and still made the same grinding sound but it would fire right up. It makes me believe I either broke teeth off my flex plate, (it’s an automatic) or the gears aren’t lined up properly. Belt was replaced within the last few years, and it doesn’t squeak when it’s running or idling. What’s your best inference on the matter and how would I go about fixing it myself? I don’t want to pull back the tranny to check my flex plate unless I have a second opinion.
 

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