Prosecutors to retry woman in Rilya Wilson foster child slaying

 

dovalle@MiamiHerald.com

Prosecutors will retry the Kendall woman accused of murdering foster child Rilya Wilson.

The state made the announcement Friday, two months after a jury deadlocked, 11 to 1, on a count of first-degree murder against Geralyn Graham, forcing Miami-Dade Circuit Marisa Tinkler Mendez to declare a mistrial.

Jurors did convict on aggravated child abuse and kidnapping, for which Graham, 67, received a 55-year prison sentence.

Prosecutors believe Graham in December 2000 smothered Rilya, a foster child, with a pillow, disposed of her body near water in South Miami-Dade, then spent years telling conflicting versions of what happened to the child.

The case lead to massive reform at Florida’s Dept. of Children and Families, which failed to discover the child was missing for more than a year.

Graham falsely claimed to investigators that a DCF case worker whisked the child away for some sort of mental health treatment, prosecutors say.

She was indicted in 2005 after police said she confessed to a cellmate that she murdered the child. The inmate, Robin Lunceford, an eccentric longtime convict who got a plea deal for her testimony, was one of the star witnesses in the trial.

Graham’s ex-lover, Pamela Graham, no relation, also testified that the woman kept Rilya locked in a laundry room, tied her to a bed and secured a dog cage to keep the child from climbing on furniture.

Prosecutor Sally Weintraub said Friday that the state is confident it can convict Graham for the girl’s murder.

“Obviously, it’s doable. The [last] jury was very close to convicting,” Weintraub said.

Graham’s defense attorneys said they were surprised by the decision.

“Geralyn is looking forward to being vindicated by a jury of her peers,” lawyer Scott Sakin said.

Judge Tinkler Mendez said she is planning for a trial in September. She also floated the possibility the trial could be moved to another city because the extensive publicity may make it difficult to find an impartial jury.

Graham faces life in prison if convicted for the murder.

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