Unable to marry legally, they held a “commitment” ceremony and soon moved to Miami so Geralyn could get treatment for breast cancer. Usually, they referred to themselves as “sisters” to hide their lesbian relationship.
By the late 1990s, the two met Rilya’s mother, Gloria Wilson, a pregnant homeless drug addict. The couple agreed to take in her baby, Rodericka.
After a visit to Rilya’s foster home, Pamela testified that she was appalled by the messy house. Geralyn eventually called DCF and a supervisor, unexpectedly, placed Rilya with the couple.
The first couple months went smooth. Pamela — an accountant — worked during the day. Geralyn stayed home with Rodericka and Rilya.
But Geralyn soon grew frustrated with the girl’s defiant behavior, exaggerating stories of Rilya’s conduct to friends, Pamela said.
Geralyn soon relegated Rilya to the laundry room, without toys or TV. Once, the girl surfaced with a nasty burn on her face. Geralyn claimed it came from the room’s water heater.
Despite urging from Pamela, Geralyn refused to call a doctor, she testified. Geralyn also refused to seek medical attention on another occasion when Rilya supposedly drank Clorox bleach.
The punishments grew outlandish.
The couple borrowed a dog cage from a friend. Geralyn said it was to keep Rilya from climbing atop the refrigerator to steal snacks.
Pamela claimed she warned Geralyn against putting the girl inside the cage, but acknowledged that she was not home during the day to see how the woman punished Rilya.
The climbing continued. So Geralyn began using plastic “flex-cuffs” to tie Rilya to her bed, sometimes every night, despite the girl’s tears.
Still, Pamela never went against Geralyn, usually checking on the restrained girl in the morning before work.
“I would just kiss her and tell her I would see her later,” Pamela said.
“Would you cut the restraints off?” prosecutor Sally Weintraub said.
“No,” she replied.
The abuse, Pamela said, culminated in December 2000. That day, Geralyn called her to say she and the girls were going out for an unspecified errand.
When Pamela returned home that night, Rilya was gone. Geralyn said the girl was OK, but that they would not see her anymore.
The couple argued for hours. Geralyn would not budge on an explanation, even when Pamela threatened to call authorities.
“The defendant threatened me with a hammer, told me to put the phone down,” Pamela said.
Geralyn told Pamela to say DCF took the child away. For months, Pamela kept quiet. When Rilya’s disappearance was noticed more than a year later, Pamela played along.
“I was scared. I knew that I was the one who had legal custody of her and I was afraid that whatever happened to her, I would be blamed for it,” Pamela said.
It was not until 2004, when approached by a Miami-Dade homicide detective, that Pamela agreed to cooperate, she said.
“I was tired of carrying the lies,” she said.