MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A Miami-Dade homicide detective took the stand Wednesday in the trial of Geralyn Graham, the caretaker accused of killing Rilya Wilson even though the child’s body has never been found.
Detective Christopher Stroze testified that Geralyn Graham told him what he would later learn was a lie, that she was the biological grandmother of Rilya Wilson.
The interview was conducted just days after it was learned that Rilya had been missing for at least 15 months.
Stroze said a confident Geralyn Graham readily agreed to be interviewed.
“She stated that if I could prove she was lying about anything she was talking about, then she was lying about everything.”
Graham told Stroze an unknown DCF worker took Rilya in January, 2001 to be evaluated for behavior problems and never returned the girl. Graham said she made repeated calls to DCF supervisor Willy Harris inquiring about Rilya’s whereabouts. Harris earlier testified no such calls were ever made.
Prosecutor Sally Weintraub asked Stroze if Graham seemed “in any way concerned about locating this little girl?”
“No,” the detective replied.
Stroze said Graham claimed Rilya had behavior problems and said she whipped the girl with a switch, causing welts on her legs.
Stroze said an extensive forensic examination was done of the home and yard where Rilya lived before going missing.
“We were looking for fingerprints, blood, fiber, bullets, casings, all of that,” Stroze said. “We didn’t find anything of evidentiary value there.”
On cross examination of Stroze, defense attorney Scott Sakin hammered away at the lack of physical evidence connecting Graham to any crime and the lack of a body. Stroze said he was unable to find any witness linking Graham to a murder, despite interviewing friends and relatives around the country.
The defense stressed the scores of possible sightings of Rilya that came in from around the nation, and even other countries, suggesting being that Rilya may indeed still be alive. The detective countered that every possible sighting was followed up on and led nowhere.
The jury also got to watch a redacted version of Good Morning America interview Graham did on May 6th, 2002 – just days after Rilya’s disappearance was made public.
An incredulous Diane Sawyer asked Graham, in the wake of Rilya’s story going national, why Graham would let a supposed DCF worker, with no documents, take Rilya away more than a year earlier.
Graham claimed that was just the way DCF did things, telling a nationwide audience, “We had no paperwork, she only identified herself by name, I saw no I.D., that’s the way everything happened back then.”
Graham, suspected of foul play from the start, was charged with murder in 2005 after several jailhouse snitches said she told them she killed Rilya because the girl was evil and a “slut.” Graham was in jail at the time on fraud charges.
Graham faces life in prison if convicted but insists she is innocent.
Rilya’s disappearance, and DCF’s long delay in discovering it, led to a high-level shake-up at the agency and numerous changes in the way foster children in Florida are tracked and monitored.