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Defense Lays Out Its Case In Geralyn Graham Child Murder Case

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Geralyn Graham at her trial on Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2013. (Source: CBS4)

Geralyn Graham at her trial on Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2013. (Source: CBS4)

Gary-Nelson-600x450 Gary Nelson
Gary Nelson has been a member of the CBS4 News team since Septem...
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Rilya Wilson

MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Defense attorneys for Geralyn Graham, the woman accused of killing missing 4-year-old foster child Rilya Wilson, argued for an acquittal of all charges in her case Wednesday morning based on the fact that Rilya’s body has never been found.

“There has to be proof that it happened,” Defense attorney Scott Sakin told Judge Marisa Tinkler Mendez.

Judge Mendez, however, denied the motion saying there was sufficient circumstantial and direct evidence to bring the case before a jury.

Wednesday, the defense called Miami-Dade Corrections Sgt. Rene Vila to the stand. Attorneys called into question the credibility of jailhouse snitch Ramona Tavia who claims she shared a cell where Graham allegedly confessed to killing Rilya. Defense attorneys presented jail records that showed Tavia and Graham never shared a cell. But on cross-examination, Vila said the records are not always perfectly accurate.

The defense is also expected to call police investigators who have already testified that they never found Rilya’s remains or any other forensic evidence.

A former homicide detective testified that Pamela Graham told a very different story about a dog cage when first questioned after Rilya was discovered missing nearly 11 years ago. The account was in stark contrast to what Pamela said at trial.

When Pamela, Geralyn’s lover and housemate, testified last month she said Geralyn got the cage to lock Rilya in, to keep the girl under control.

Detective Chris Stroze testified today that Pamela claimed in 2002 that Rilya used the cage as a toy, playing in it with
other children. Stroze said Pamela claimed at the time that she, not Geralyn, had gotten the cage in anticipation of getting some puppies.

Defense attorneys also say there’s no evidence that Rilya is actually dead. She disappeared in late 2000.

Tuesday afternoon, the prosecution rested its case after a former fellow jail inmate testified that Graham tearfully admitted killing the girl when the two shared a cell one night.

Ramona Tavia on the stand at the trial of Geralyn Graham on Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2013. (Source: CBS4)

Ramona Tavia on the stand at the trial of Geralyn Graham on Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2013. (Source: CBS4)

Ramona Tavia, a 41-year-old serving life for a 1994 robbery and murder, said she befriended Geralyn Graham in a woman’s jail annex in downtown Miami and was briefly moved into Graham’s cell in November 2003. Tavia said Graham seemed upset after a phone call and was crying when corrections officers led her into the cell.

Graham, Tavia said, kept repeating that “she killed the baby” to protect her former live-in lover, Pamela Graham.

“She said she had to protect Pam. Pam is sick and weak,” Tavia testified.

Tavia also testified that earlier Graham told her a Department of Children and Families worker had taken the child.

“I was angry. I felt like the lady lied to me,” Tavia told jurors.

Two other inmates have also said Graham confessed while behind bars. The prosecution’s case hinges on the testimony of those jailhouse snitches.

It’s not clear if Graham herself will testify. She faces life in prison if convicted of murder, kidnapping and child abuse charges.

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