Courts

Rilya Wilson’s older sister attends Monday’s murder trial

 

Despite having met briefly over a decade ago, Brandy Sims, now 18, does not remember Rilya Wilson.

dovalle@MiamiHerald.com

Brandy Sims has no memory of briefly meeting her younger sister Rilya Wilson over a decade ago.

With that in mind, the 18-year-old Miramar high school junior attended Monday’s trial of the Kendall woman accused of slaying the foster child.

“I wanted to hear both sides of the story and wanted to hear some more about my sister,” said Sims, who shares the same mother as Rilya. “I don’t really know her.

Both Rilya and Sims were born to Gloria Wilson, a drug-addled woman whose children all ended up as wards of the state. The two girls met briefly at a birthday party when Sims was 4 years old, a meeting she doesn’t remember.

Sims attended the trial of Geralyn Graham — now in its third week — with U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, who has advocated for Rilya and for changes to the state’s child welfare agency.

The Florida Department of Children and Families had placed Rilya in the home of Graham and her lover, Pamela Graham, no relation. But the agency did not realize the 5-year-old girl was missing until April 2002 — more than a year after she was last seen alive.

Despite a massive search, Rilya was never found and is presumed dead. Her disappearance went undiscovered so long because the case worker assigned to supervise Rilya stopped visiting the home, despite filing paperwork suggesting she had checked on the girl.

Graham, 66, is charged with first-degree murder, kidnapping and child abuse in the slaying of Rilya, whose disappearance sparked a massive scandal at the state’s child welfare agency. She was indicted in 2005 after police said she confessed to a cellmate that she smothered the child and dumped her body in a South Miami-Dade waterway.

Graham initially told DCF that one of its own employees — an unnamed light,-skinned woman with a possible Caribbean accent — whisked the girl away in January 2001 for some sort of mental health evaluation. But Miami-Dade prosecutors say Graham concocted the story to cover up the slaying.

A series of DCF employees testified last week that the girl could not have been removed from the Graham home without generating a slew of court and agency paperwork, none of which existed. Several employees also testified that Graham seemed unconcerned that DCF never returned the child to her home.

Jurors have also heard that Graham applied for and was receiving financial assistance from DCF even after Rilya had supposedly been taken by the agency. To receive the benefits, according to testimony, she turned in an altered court order falsely awarding her custody of the child as a relative.

Mary Rosado, who approves financial assistance for DCF, testified Monday that Graham would show up to interviews for assistance only with Rodericka, Rilya’s little sister who also lived with the women.

Graham, she recalled, claimed she would leave Rilya with relatives “because it was too hard to handle two babies.” Rosado also testified that Graham never mentioned that Rilya had allegedly been taken away by DCF.

The jury has yet to hear from Pamela Graham, who is expected to testify that her lover hit and tied up the child. Pamela Graham also is expected to say Geralyn Graham forced her to corroborate her story about how Rilya went missing.

Also waiting to testify: Robin Lunceford, the jailhouse informant who claimed Geralyn Graham confessed to the murder.

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