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Legal guardian: Lover tied up Rilya, confined her to laundry room


Posted on Monday, 12.17.12

Legal guardian: Lover tied up Rilya, confined her to laundry room



For months, an increasingly exasperated Geralyn Graham kept little Rilya Wilson confined in the laundry room of her Kendall home, sometimes for days, the woman’s ex-lover testified Monday.

For nights on end, Geralyn kept the 4-year-old foster child tied up by the wrists in bed to keep her from climbing atop stools and counter tops. To punish her for wetting the bed, Geralyn once dipped the girl into scalding bathtub water, Pamela Graham told jurors.

Months of abuse culminated one evening in December 2000 when Pamela Graham — no relation to her live-in lover — came home from work and Rilya had vanished. Hours of arguments ensued.

Geralyn, Pamela told jurors, refused to say what happened and even threatened her with a hammer if she called authorities.

“I didn’t know but I thought something bad had happened,” Pamela tearfully told jurors.

The 48-year-old accountant took the stand Monday, the most high-profile witness to appear in the 4-week-old murder trial of Geralyn Graham. She repeatedly told jurors that she was "weak" and did nothing to protect Rilya to avoid confrontation with her older, dominating lover.

"When I was arguing with the defendant, I felt like a child myself. She controlled every aspect of my life," Pamela said.

After more than a year, when authorities finally discovered the girl missing, Pamela went along with Geralyn’s lies out of fear, she said.

Geralyn Graham, 66, is on trial for the death of the 5-year-old foster child whose disappearance a decade ago roiled the state’s child welfare agency and led to a series of reforms. Rilya’s body has never been found.

Charged with first-degree murder, kidnapping and aggravated child abuse, Geralyn Graham faces life in prison if convicted.

Born to a drug-addicted woman, Rilya was under the supervision of the Florida Department of Children and Families nearly her entire life. In 2000, the agency placed her in the home of Pamela and Geralyn Graham, who were already caring for Rilya’s little sister.

Because a case worker failed to properly supervise the child for more than a year, DCF did not realize Rilya was missing until April 2002. Geralyn Graham has long insisted that a DCF employee, in January 2001, whisked Rilya away for mental health treatment, never to return.

Graham was not indicted for murder until 2005 after she allegedly confessed to a cellmate that she smothered the girl and dumped her body in a South Miami-Dade waterway. The cellmate, Robin Lunceford, may testify this week.

With no body, eyewitnesses to the slaying or confession, Miami-Dade prosecutors have spent weeks weaving a circumstantial case portraying Geralyn Graham as a lying, manipulative caregiver who gave multiple stories of how Rilya disappeared and appeared unconcerned that DCF supposedly took the child and never returned her.

Defense lawyers have laid blame on the DCF case worker who failed to properly supervise the child, and pointed to a lack of forensic evidence and questioned whether the child is even dead.

Pamela Graham, 48, agreed to cooperate with prosecutors, pleading guilty to child neglect and child abuse with no harm.

Prosecutors say that Pamela Graham, who was the legal custodian of the child, was cowered into lying by her dominating lover.

In her sworn statement, Pamela Graham told police that Geralyn never revealed to her what happened to the child, but forced her to lie to authorities.

2012 Dec 17