MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The DCF social worker who first discovered Rilya Wilson was missing took the stand at the trial of Geralyn Graham. Graham is the foster parent accused of killing the child more than a decade ago even though her body has never been found.
Dora Betancourt testified Wednesday that while preparing for a hearing on Rilya’s case in 2002, she found Rilya’s file to be incomplete. The file should have contained monthly progress notes on Rilya and her sister but the notes abruptly ended 15 months earlier.
Betancourt was so bothered by the 15-month gap in progress reports that she called the Graham house that afternoon and again the next week. She arranged to visit the home on April 18th, 2002.
Just as she arrived, Geralyn Graham pulled into the driveway with Rodericka, Rilya’s younger sister.
Betancourt said she asked Graham where Rilya was and that Graham answered, “I thought you were bringing her.”
Incredulous, Betancourt asked Graham, “What do you mean?”
Graham claimed she had called DCF about Rilya’s “bizarre behavior” issues and a worker came to her home in January 2001, took her away and never brought her back.
Betancourt also testified that Graham told her she was Rilya’s paternal grandmother, but Betancourt said the paperwork did not indicate that.
When asked if Graham expressed shock at the fact that Rilya was missing, Betancourt testified, “Not in the way a grandmother would be if a child was missing.”
Tuesday, former DCF caseworker and key witness Deborah Muskelly testified.
An investigation showed Muskelly did not make required monthly visits to the Grahams’ home for more than a year, even though she was filing reports and telling judges the girl was fine.
In court Tuesday, Muskelly admitted to falsifying mileage records, saying she “guesstimated.” Defense attorneys for Graham contended she lied.
Muskelly was asked if she had visited Rilya Wilson’s home after January 2001 and told defense attorney Scott Sakin, “If you’re gonna ask me if I went; I already told you I didn’t go.”
Eventually Muskelly resigned from DCF and pleaded guilty to official misconduct for falsifying time sheets. She was placed on five years’ probation and paid restitution to the state. She now works as an employment recruiter for a private company.
Muskelly said she turned in travel vouchers for face-to-face visits for months after authorities says Rilya went missing in late 2000.
On the witness stand, Muskelly said she often used the telephone to check on children under her supervision because of her caseload of more than 100 children. She also acknowledged claiming travel reimbursement for in-home visits for Rilya for months in 2001. It wasn’t until April 2002 that authorities discovered Rilya was no longer living at the Graham home.
Before that, Muskelly said Graham would always assure her on the phone that Rilya “was doing fine, doing great” and when she did visit the home, she saw nothing amiss.
“I never saw a problem with the child,” Muskelly testified.
Later, Muskelly said she regretted many of her actions and wished often she could go back and change things.
She also talked about Rilya’s former foster parent Pamela Kendrick. She testified Rilya was happy with Kendrick.
But Geralyn Graham persuaded retired DCF supervisor Willie Harris to move Rilya to her home so she could be with her younger sister Rodericka, who was already under Graham’s care.
“The child had been with the Kendricks. She was happy there and she was fine and I didn’t understand how she got from one to the other,” testified Muskelly.
Muskelly said when she did visit Rilya at Graham’s home, “she was quiet but she was clean.”
Willie Harris testified last week that he removed Rilya from the Kendrick home after Graham called DCF to report Rilya was being kept in filthy conditions and Kendrick refused to allow him to inspect her house.
Muskelly also told the jury that she never saw Graham display any affection toward Rilya and never complained about behavior problems she claims the girl had.
Other witnesses have already testified that they saw possible signs of abuse on the girl but none have testified they saw Graham harm the child.
One witness, Detra Coakley Winfield, testified she loaned Graham and her lover Pamela Graham a dog cage to keep Wilson “safe” in but never saw the girl inside it.
Winfield said she didn’t remember seeing Rilya after Christmas 2000.
Based on Graham’s purported confession to fellow jail inmates, prosecutors say she smothered Rilya with a pillow and buried her body near a lake or canal. But Rilya’s remains have never been found, and part of the defense is to raise doubt for jurors about whether Rilya might really still be alive.
Jailhouse snitches Robin Lunceford and Pamela Graham are expected to testify later in the trial, which is scheduled to last several more weeks. Lunceford is expected to testify that Graham told her she killed Rilya because the little girl was evil.
Pamela Graham is expected to testify as per a plea deal with prosecutors that will likely allow her to avoid jail.
Graham is facing first-degree murder, kidnapping and child abuse charges, and faces life in prison if convicted.