MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Geralyn Graham, the caretaker of missing foster child Rilya Wilson, calmly took notes on a yellow legal pad Thursday as a former Miami-Dade detective took the stand at her murder trial.
Geralyn Graham, 66, faces first-degree murder in the little girl’s 2002 disappearance.
Graham’s defense attorney questioned former Det. Gregory Smith, pointing out to jurors that there were other working theories Miami-Dade police detectives didn’t vigorously pursue.
“Your homicide bureau never ever worked under the theory that there were impostors or other people alleging that there were DCF workers picking up Rilya did you?” Defense attorney Michael Matters asked.
“That was certainly in the background, sure,” Det. Smith replied.
“There was a theory, wasn’t there, that Rilya was either sold or given away?” Matters asked. “That was a working theory at one time, wasn’t it?”
“Sure,” Smith said.
State prosecutors mocked that line of questioning by asking Smith whether it was possible “little green men” might have taken Rilya.
Defense attorneys argued a mistrial should be granted based on that mocking. However, Judge Marisa Tinkler-Mendez denied the motion saying that those words were “not appropriate”, but they do not rise to the level of a mistrial.
When asked if there was no physical evidence tying Graham to a murder, Smith replied, “There’s evidence. That’s why we’re here.”
Smith was referring to three inmates who are expected to testify later in the trial that Graham allegedly confessed to them that she killed Rilya Wilson. But a day earlier, jurors heard from Graham for the first time in the form of DVD played back from a 2002 interview which she conducted with ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
Graham insisted then and now that a state child welfare worker took the girl for mental tests and never returned her.
In the interview, ABC’s Diane Sawyer asked Graham why she 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.”
Rilya was four years old when she went missing, but her disappearance wasn’t discovered by the state for over a year.
On Thursday, the dog cage in which Graham allegedly kept Rilya was brought out again as another former detective was questioned. Earlier in the trial, several people who knew Graham testified that she had told them she kept Rilya in the cage as a way to control her movements and to “keep her safe.”
Detectives stated that the cage was too rusty and too withered to link any physical evidence to prove allegations that Rilya was kept there. Former Miami-Dade Det. Ramesh Nyberg also testified that he was among the detectives who scoured Graham’s former home in search of any physical evidence.
“We dug up the backyard,” Nyberg said.
Their efforts did not lead them to any physical evidence.
State prosecutors have portrayed Graham as a habitual liar who claimed to be Rilya’s paternal grandmother and who expressed little concern in finding her.
The defense stressed the scores of possible sightings of Rilya that came in from around the nation, and even other countries, suggesting that Rilya may indeed still be alive. The detective countered that every possible sighting was followed up on and led nowhere.
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.