Long before welfare workers discovered Rilya Wilson had been missing for 15 months, her caregiver told at least six people that the 4-year-old child was in the care of a friend, newly released court documents show.
The caregiver, Geralyn Graham, told police when Rilya's disappearance was finally noticed by state officials that other state workers had picked up the child months before, a story the state denies and police say they don't believe.
The realization in April 2002 that a foster child had been missing for more than a year before Department of Children & Families workers knew it triggered an upheaval in agency management and a blue-ribbon committee review of the state's child-protection system.
The story Geralyn Graham told friends about the girl's absence, that she willingly let the girl go to either New York or New Jersey with an unnamed friend, was contained in 511 pages of documents released Friday in a kidnapping and aggravated child abuse case brought against Graham last month.
The charges relate to the girl's treatment before she vanished.
Two of Graham's acquaintances told police she confided in them that she would put Rilya in a dog cage to prevent her from harming her younger sister, records show.
Visitors to Graham's house while Rilya was living there told police they rarely saw her walking around. One said he thought the girl spent part of one Christmas locked in a laundry room.
Graham's attorney, Brian Tannebaum, told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel on Friday that the child abuse case is a squeeze tactic by prosecutors to pressure her into falsely implicating herself in the girl's disappearance.
Graham is serving a five-year prison sentence for fraud and has used 38 aliases.