[Hpn] SFGate: Caretakers of missing Florida girl are charged with abusing her before she disappeared three years ago

Tink wtinker@metrocast.net
Thu, 19 Aug 2004 09:05 -0700

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Thursday, August 19, 2004 (AP)
Caretakers of missing Florida girl are charged with abusing her before she disappeared three years ago
CATHERINE WILSON, Associated Press Writer

   (08-19) 03:19 PDT MIAMI (AP) --
   The caretakers of a missing girl stand accused of mistreating her before
she disappeared three years ago, including locking her in a cage and tying
her to her bed.
   Geralyn Graham, 58, and Pamela Graham, 39, were charged Wednesday with
abusing 4-year-old Rilya Wilson, who authorities believe disappeared in
2001 while in Pamela Graham's care. The case rocked the Florida Department
of Children & Families, which had taken Rilya from her homeless,
crack-addicted mother.
   The women initially identified themselves as half-sisters, but Pamela
Graham told co-workers Geralyn was her wife. Geralyn Graham claimed to be
Rilya's grandmother.
   Police say Pamela Graham, who had custody of Rilya, neglected the girl and
failed to protect her from Geralyn Graham. She is cooperating with
investigators. If convicted, she could be sentenced to 10 years in prison.
   Geralyn Graham, who is already serving a three-year sentence for fraud,
was charged with kidnapping and aggravated child abuse. Graham, according
to police, punished Rilya in the last five months of 2000 by locking her
in an animal cage, tying her to her bed and confining her in a laundry
room. She could get a life sentence if convicted.
   The DCF discovered that Rilya was missing in April 2002 and that
caseworkers had not made required visits to check on her for at least 15
   The Grahams say the girl was taken from their home by a DCF worker in
January 2001. The agency and police deny that.
   Brian Tannebaum, Geralyn Graham's attorney, said he stood by what "my
client says and I don't have any evidence to the contrary."
   Pamela Graham's attorney, Martin Beguiristain, declined to comment.
   Geralyn Graham was sentenced last year on charges that included accepting
welfare payments for the girl long after she disappeared. Pamela Graham
was sentenced to two years of probation.
   The state's botched handling of Rilya's care led to an investigation of
DCF and a management shake-up. Rilya's last assigned social worker was
placed on probation.

Copyright 2004 AP