Thursday, April 19, 2018

Informer testifies caretaker confessed to killing Rilya Wilson

MIAMI — The former caretaker of missing Florida foster child Rilya Wilson confessed to smothering the girl with a pillow because the woman said the child was "evil" and had mental problems that would never be cured, a jailhouse informer testified Wednesday.

Robin Lunceford said 66-year-old Geralyn Graham admitted to the killing while the two were in a holding cell alone together in Aug. 18, 2004. That was nearly four years after 4-year-old Rilya disappeared from the home Graham shared with her live-in female lover.

Rilya's disappearance went unnoticed by the state Department of Children and Families for about 15 months, triggering a statewide scandal that led to high-level resignations and reforms including improved monitoring of foster children.

Lunceford, who is testifying under a plea deal that spares her a life sentence in prison, said Graham referred to Rilya as "it" and claimed that the girl did unusual or strange things such as smearing feces on the floor and rubbing her hand on men's genitals. Lunce­ford said she and Graham became friends because they had adjoining jail cells and traveled back and forth to court appearances together.

"She said that Rilya was evil and a demon," Lunceford testified.

Graham reportedly told Lunceford, 50, she became increasingly frustrated by an inability to control Rilya and that the last straw came on Halloween 2000, when the girl refused to wear an angel costume in favor of a Cleopatra mask an older child had brought.

"She was enraged. She said at that point she knew what she had to do. She couldn't allow it to suffer like that. And that Cleopatra was evil and a slut," Lunceford quoted Graham as saying.

"Then she kind of whispered to me that she killed it, and I asked her how, and she said she smothered it with a pillow. I asked her twice. She said it was suffering and she couldn't allow it to grow up and suffer like that," Lunceford testified.

Later, Lunceford said Graham told her the body was buried near a canal or lake because "water represented peace."

Rilya's body has never been found. Lunceford's testimony is critical to the state's case because prosecutors have little physical evidence and no witnesses to any killing. Graham faces life in prison if convicted of first-degree murder, kidnapping and child abuse charges.

Defense attorneys have suggested that Rilya may have been sold and could be alive.

Graham has insisted that Rilya was taken from her home by a DCF worker for a mental evaluation and never returned. Investigators, however, found nothing to substantiate that story and Graham's former companion Pamela Graham — they are not related — testified earlier that the tale was false.

Pamela Graham and other witnesses have testified that Geralyn Graham abused Rilya because she was disobedient, including tying her to her bed at night with plastic restraints and forcing her into dayslong timeouts in a laundry room. Those witnesses said they never saw the so-called evil and strange behavior that Graham discussed.

Comments
Bradshaw and Shanahan: Barbara Bush was role model who loved Florida

Bradshaw and Shanahan: Barbara Bush was role model who loved Florida

By Sally Bradshaw and Kathleen Shanahan, special to the TimesBarbara Pierce Bush loved Florida.With a son as governor, she was practically an honorary Floridian! No one was prouder of former Gov. Jeb Bush than his mom, and no one a more honest critic...
Updated: 1 hour ago
EPA head showed penchant for travel, drivers even before DC

EPA head showed penchant for travel, drivers even before DC

Newly obtained records show Scott Pruitt's penchant for travel and concerns about security was notable even before he became head of the Environmental Protection Agency
Updated: 1 hour ago
Barbara Bush believed literacy could cure other ills

Barbara Bush believed literacy could cure other ills

Barbara Bush came up with the idea of focusing on literacy as first lady during a jog in 1978, the year her husband considered his first run for president
Updated: 1 hour ago
Mirotic, Davis lead Pelicans to 3-0 series lead over Blazers

Mirotic, Davis lead Pelicans to 3-0 series lead over Blazers

Nikola Mirotic scored a career-playoff-best 30 points and the New Orleans Pelicans pushed Portland to the brink of elimination with a 119-102 victory
Updated: 1 hour ago
Greinke, D-backs beat Giants 3-1 to win 6th straight series

Greinke, D-backs beat Giants 3-1 to win 6th straight series

Zack Greinke pitched seven dominant innings and the Arizona Diamondbacks won their sixth straight series with a 3-1 victory over the San Francisco Giants
Updated: 1 hour ago
Prime minister says Australia will sail in South China Sea

Prime minister says Australia will sail in South China Sea

Australia's prime minister says the Australian navy has a "perfect right" to traverse the South China Sea after a report that the Chinese navy challenged three Australian warships in the hotly contested waterway
Updated: 1 hour ago
Lagarde urges countries to settle trade disputes, cut debt

Lagarde urges countries to settle trade disputes, cut debt

The head of the International Monetary Fund is urging countries to work out their differences over trade
Updated: 1 hour ago
Trump legal team in Russia probe gets Rudy Giuliani

Trump legal team in Russia probe gets Rudy Giuliani

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani is joining the legal team defending President Donald Trump
Updated: 1 hour ago

Indonesia's Aceh canes couples for public shows of affection

Indonesia's deeply conservative Aceh province has publicly caned unmarried couples for showing affection in public and two women for prostitution
Updated: 2 hours ago

State basketball head banned over conduct at daughter's game

The head of a state basketball association in Australia has been banned from attending games for eight weeks after confronting a referee supervisor at his daughter's under-12 game
Updated: 2 hours ago