Will you please make up your minds, Miami-Dade DA’s office?

Seven months ago they said they’d decided to re-try Rilya Wilson‘s alleged killer for murder after the jury deadlocked on that charge, even though Geralyn Graham still got 55 years in prison for kidnapping and child abuse. Initially the prosecution said they would not re-try her, but they changed their minds.

Well, they changed their minds again: no new trial. I hope it is official. Geralyn Graham’s never getting out of prison in any case; to re-try her for murder, particularly for such a complicated and high-profile case as this one, would be a waste of money.

Witness in Rilya Wilson case released from prison

Robin Lunceford, the star witness against Geralyn Graham at the trial for the presumed murder of her foster daughter Rilya Wilson, has been released from prison. She got a sweetheart deal in return for her testimony: convicted of armed robbery under Florida’s habitual offender laws, she was supposed to get LWOPped. Instead she got ten years, with time for good behavior. She was actually supposed to be released last December but it didn’t happen till now on account of some of her less-than-good behavior in prison.

I don’t know if she was telling the truth in her testimony at the trial, but she hardly strikes me as a trustworthy person. Robin Lunceford is a career criminal who uses over 20 alias names. Check out her criminal record in the state of Florida — and it looks like she’s done crimes in Nevada and Illinois too. This woman has no respect for the law.

Nevertheless, if one of them has to be free, I would rather it be Robin Lunceford than Geralyn Graham.

They changed their minds

The prosecution has decided that, on second thought, they’d like to try Geralyn Graham a second time for the murder of Rilya Wilson. As I noted previously, last month Geralyn was convicted of kidnapping and child abuse in Rilya’s case, but the jury deadlocked 11 to 1 for a murder conviction.

I’m not sure why the prosecution is doing this, frankly. Geralyn Graham is in her sixties and she got sentenced to 55 years in prison as is, so it’s not like there’s any real danger of seeing her walk free in this lifetime. Maybe they’re trying to get her to say where the body is? Dunno.

Geralyn Graham gets 55 years

Geralyn Graham, foster mother of missing child Rilya Wilson, was sentenced to 55 years in prison for kidnapping and abusing Rilya. (She was also charged with murder, but the jury hung on that count.) As Graham is 67 years old, the sentence virtually guarantees she will never see the light of day again. And she’ll be surrounded by female inmates who have children they love and miss, and I reckon she’s not going to be terribly popular.

The judge said Graham committed “senseless, cruel and inhumane acts” against Rilya and added, “One can only be inherently evil to inflict that type of pain and torment on an innocent child.” You can see the judge’s statement on video here; she also condemns the many people that could have stopped what was going on and didn’t.

Graham continues to deny responsibility in Rilya’s death, saying “Rilya is a very sweet child to me and I would never knowingly hurt her in any way. I miss her and I love her.” Riiiight. I was hoping she’d cave and tell us where the body is in exchange for a shorter sentence. Oh, well. At least she’s going to pay for what she did to that little girl. And it’s been a long time coming.

Justice for Rilya?

As all of you probably know by now, Geralyn Graham was convicted of child abuse and kidnapping in the disappearance of Rilya Wilson, but the jury deadlocked on the murder charge. Eleven to one. I’m assuming it was eleven to one in favor of conviction, but they won’t say. I was afraid she would be acquitted outright. The case against her was so weak, even though we all know she did it.

It looks like the prosecutor won’t retry on the murder charge. It kind of makes more sense not to: the case has dragged on for so long and cost so much taxpayer money. A murder conviction means a life sentence, but the charges Graham has already been convicted of, according to the article I linked to, could mean 30 years or more in jail, and I see no reason why the judge would go easy on her. Geralyn Graham is now 67 years old, so that would basically be a life sentence anyway.

Poor Rilya. As I pointed out before, her name may have been an acronym for “Remember I Love You Always” but I don’t think anyone loved her while she was alive.

Closing arguments in Rilya Wilson trial

At long last, the protracted Rilya Wilson case is drawing to a close: closing arguments are today in the murder trial of her foster mom, Geralyn Graham. The defense is going for reasonable doubt. The prosecution’s case is weak.

We all know Geralyn Graham killed that little girl. But did they prove it? I really don’t know.

What is it with MWAB cases lately?

The past few months have seen a flurry of murder-without-a-body (hereby christened “MWAB”) cases. They just keep coming down the track one after another. I’m glad prosecutors are getting bolder about these; I only hope they can prove their cases.

Here’s a rundown of all the recent ones I know about, that aren’t mentioned on Charley yet:

In September, longtime suspect Steven Lorenzo was charged with the murder of Jason Galehouse, who disappeared in 2003 from Florida.
In October, Vernon and Deborah Calloway were charged with the murder of Patricia Calloway. who disappeared in 1993 from Kentucky. They were her ex-siblings-in-law.
Also in October, William Cumber was charged with the murder of Sabine Musil-Buehler, who’s been missing from Florida since 2008. Cumber was her boyfriend.
In November, Danny Ross Giles was charged with the murder of Tracey Brazzel, who vanished from Washington in 1995. He was also charged with the murder of another local young woman who disappeared around the same time and was found a week later.
Also in November, Chester Price was charged with the murder of Andrea Gail Parsons. She’s been missing from Florida since 1994.
This month, Ed Henline Sr. and his son Ed Jr. were charged with the murder of Hannah Zaccaglini, as I previously noted on this blog. Hannah’s been missing from California since 1997.
Also this month, Leila Mulla and Dalton Dunnagan have been charged with the murder of Gary Kergan, who disappeared from Louisiana in 1984. They had actually been arrested for his murder right after it happened, but released for lack of evidence.

Also, in November, Dion Kaseta was convicted of manslaughter in the case of Kimberly Mimmovich, who’s been missing from Florida since 2001. He was her boyfriend.
And the trial in the Rilya Wilson case is ongoing.

I think that’s all of them.

It’s about time!

It’s looks like they’re really going to trial this time in the decade-old disappearance of Rilya Wilson. Geralyn Graham, her foster mother, was charged with murder back in 2005, seven years ago, and the trial has been postponed umpteen times. But jury selection, they say, begins tomorrow, so it looks like it’ll really happen this time.

From what I know, the case against Geralyn Graham is weak. I mean, I’m quite sure she killed Rilya, but can they prove it? For the jury it may be a matter of “I know she did it, but…” Like with the Casey Anthony trial. I believe Casey killed her daughter Caylee, and the jury might have believed it also, but if the prosecution couldn’t prove that, then the jury made the correct decision when they acquitted her.

The problem is this (quoted from the article I linked to above):

In Graham’s case, the star prosecution witness will be Robin Lunceford, a career criminal [here’s her rap sheet] who had been sentenced to life behind bars before revealing Graham’s purported confession. Lunceford’s sentence was reduced to 10 years after she came forward. She is now scheduled for release in March 2014.

Maybe Lunceford actually heard the confession. Maybe she didn’t. I don’t trust that woman as far as I can throw her. Another quote:

Ultimately…the jury will have to be convinced that there’s no other explanation for Rilya’s death in order to convict Graham.

“Other than foul play, is there any reasonable explanation for the missing person’s disappearance?” he said. “Assuming the answer is no, is there any reasonable doubt that someone other than the accused is the perpetrator?”

We shall see.

Rilya’s entire life was a tragedy. They say her name was an acronym for “Remember I Love You Always” but it looks like in all her four years on this earth she didn’t have one single person who gave a damn about her.

Geralyn Graham to go to trial in March

It looks like Geralyn Graham is finally, finally, finally going to trial for the murder of Rilya Wilson, the child she was fostering, who disappeared in 2001. Rilya’s case was catastrophic bad press for Florida’s Department of Children and Families; she was missing for over a year before DCF caseworkers noticed.

The trial date is March 26.

A trial this year for Geralyn Graham? My thoughts on the Rilya Wilson case

Geralyn Graham, the foster mother of Rilya Wilson, may go to trial this fall, sez the Miami Herald. Graham was charged with Rilya’s murder in 2005.

The case is incredibly complicated and tragic. Rilya was neglected and abused by her mother, a cocaine addict, but Graham was clearly no better, something that should have been obvious long before Rilya disappeared. The state of Florida must have been really hard up for foster parents to certify a convicted fraud with a string of alias and an alleged “psychotic disorder.” A social worker was supposed to visit Rilya once a month to determine her well-being, but Rilya’s social worker didn’t so much drop the ball as deliberately hurl it into the abyss. She falsified records of visits she wasn’t making. As a result, no one found out about Rilya’s disappearance until over a year after it happened. I am quite sure that Geralyn Graham killed Rilya, but I’m not at all sure the state can prove it, given that one of their major witnesses backed out and will not testify after all. There is no body. As far as I know, there’s no physical evidence at all. There are no direct witnesses to the alleged homicide.

Too bad we can’t put the entire Florida DCF on trial for Rilya’s homicide. They all killed her together, them and Graham. Rilya’s case is unique on Charley, not because she was gone a long time before she was reported missing, but because of the way she was abysmally failed by the very system set up to protect her. Let’s look at some other Charley cases that are similar:

Brittany Williams, age 8, missing from Virginia since 2000. Disappearance not discovered for over two years. Brittany was living with a guardian at the time of her disappearance; her guardian had legal custody of her and she wasn’t in the foster care system. My theory is that Brittany, who had full-blown AIDS by the time of her disappearance, simply died and her guardian hid her body somewhere in order to continue to collect benefits from the state.

Peter Kema, age 6, missing from Hawaii since 1997. Disappearance not discovered for several months. Though Peter and his siblings were being supervised by the Hawaii Department of Human Services, they were living with their biological parents at the time of his disappearance. In retrospect, the DHS should have taken them all away long before he vanished. I believe they did act correctly once they realized Peter was missing, though. If the DHS had not demanded Peter’s parents produce him in person, it’s possible his disappearance wouldn’t have been discovered for much longer. It’s plain as day what happened to him and who did it.

Rene Romero, 4, missing from Nevada since 1994. His mother and her boyfriend killed him, then immediately moved out of state with their other kids to conceal his disappearance. It’s not clear when his disappearance was discovered, but it came to light when Rene’s parents were investigated for abusing their other children. They were both charged with murder in 1998, and eventually convicted. I don’t know whether Rene was under any kind of supervision by child protective services at the time of his death, but it seems unlikely.

Michelle Pulsifer, 3, missing from California since 1969. Her disappearance wasn’t reported to the police for over thirty years. Michelle’s mother had full custody of her and her father had no legal rights to her, and though he visited her and her brother there was nothing he could do when the family up and moved to another state very suddenly. This was to conceal Michelle’s death; she was murdered by her mother or her mother’s boyfriend or both of them. Decades later, Michelle’s aunt hired a private investigator to find her, and the police began investigating after the P.I. couldn’t find any record of her after 1969. Michelle’s mother and her boyfriend were charged with murder, but Mom was acquitted and the boyfriend died before trial.

Garnell Moore, 7, missing from Maryland since 2002. Bizarrely, even his own relatives didn’t notice he was gone for almost three years. Garnell’s parents weren’t part of his life and he was passed around to various (probably unwilling) relations, was never enrolled in school and never came to the notice of child protective services or, apparently, anyone else. It wasn’t that the system failed him, per se; he was never in the system to begin with. The last person known to have cared for him claims she abandoned him on the doorstep of a social services building, but the address she gave did not exist. God only knows what happened to him and if he’s still alive.

Adam Herrman, 11 or 12, missing from Kansas since 1999. Disappearance not noticed for nine years. A former foster child, he was legally adopted by his foster parents. They continued to pick up his benefit checks in his absence and gave various explanations for his absence to those who asked. Adam’s disappearance came to light when his adopted sister, who thought he had been given back to the Department of Social and Rehabiliation Services, tried to locate him though the SRS and found out that as far as the SRS knew, he was still with his adoptive parents. His adoptive parents claim he ran away and they were afraid to report it at the time. Riiiight. After Adam’s disappearance came to light, many credible witnesses came forward saying Adam had been severely abused by his adoptive mother. I think we all know what really happened.

Ke’Shaun Vanderhorst, 2, missing from Pennsylvania since 1995. Disappearance not reported for three weeks. His mother told her family he’d been taken by the state Department of Human Services, but they got suspicious and went to the police. Ke’Shaun’s mother, when confronted, gave several stories to account for his disappearance, including one where she sold him to a nice lady who promised to take care of him. She later pleaded no contest to child endangerment.

All these children were badly let down by those around them. Their parents or guardians abused them. Others in their lives knew about the abuse and failed to stop it. In some cases, child protective agencies failed to rescue them from abusive homes, or rescued them from abusive homes only to place them in other abusive homes. These kids never had a chance.

In my opinion, however, none of them were let down nearly as badly as Rilya Wilson was. In none of the above cases was there the level of supervision expected in Rilya’s case. The children were living with biological relatives or adoptive parents, not foster homes like Rilya, and social workers weren’t required to check up on them as Rilya’s social worker was supposed to do.