- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 16, 2005

MIAMI (AP) — A woman who was supposed to be taking care of Rilya Wilson, the 4-year-old foster child whose disappearance three years ago scandalized Florida’s child-protection agency, was indicted yesterday on charges of killing the girl.

Geralyn Graham also was charged with kidnapping and aggravated child abuse. No body has been found, prosecutors said.

“Our grand jury has heard the facts and determined that Rilya’s disappearance was the result of an act of violence and has indicted the child’s former caretaker,” State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said.

The suspect confessed while jailed on unrelated fraud charges and investigators later found corroborating evidence, said Miss Fernandez Rundle, who declined to give specifics.

“She basically broke down and told someone in the jail details about Rilya Wilson, including how she killed her,” she said.

Geralyn Graham’s attorney, Brian L. Tannebaum, said: “That’s completely not true. That’s based on a jailhouse snitch. … They have no other evidence.”

Rilya’s story became known three years ago when it was discovered that she was not living at the home she shared with Geralyn Graham and another woman, Pamela Graham, who was Rilya’s legal guardian. The women claimed a state social worker took the child in early 2001 for medical testing and never returned with the girl, who was 4 when she was last seen.

The girl’s disappearance went unnoticed by the Florida Department of Children & Families for months. The scandal led to a major shake-up at the agency.

The indictment charges that Rilya either was suffocated or beaten to death sometime in December 2000. Geralyn Graham could have a court appearance as early as today on the new charges, said state attorney spokesman Ed Griffith.

Geralyn Graham was arrested shortly after the disappearance on unrelated charges and was convicted of using a friend’s Social Security number to buy a sport utility vehicle. She was sentenced to three years in jail, where she remains. Pamela Graham pleaded guilty to accepting welfare payments for Rilya after the girl left her care and received two years’ probation.

In August, Geralyn Graham was accused of aggravated child abuse for locking Rilya in a cage and other purported mistreatment. She also was charged with kidnapping for removing Rilya from Pamela Graham’s custody. Pamela Graham, who was cooperating with authorities, was charged with child abuse.

Rilya was born Sept. 29, 1996, to a homeless cocaine addict. The girl’s name was an acronym for “Remember I love you always.” She was taken into state custody when she was less than 2 months old.

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