MIAMI (CBSMiami) — After eight weeks of testimony, the case against accused child killer Geralyn Graham is in its last phase as jurors heard colorful closing arguments Tuesday.
In a dramatic move, state prosecutor Josh Weintraub picked up the photograph of foster child Rilya Wilson, placed it in the dog cage and slammed it shut. The same dog cage, he told jurors during closing arguments, that Graham allegedly placed the child in more than a decade ago.
On Tuesday, Weintraub illustrated to jurors Graham’s alleged actions involving caging Rilya.
“I’m going to put the child in this cage because I can’t control her anymore,” Weintraub quoted Graham as saying based on testimony from witnesses.
Graham, 67, is accused of abusing, caging and killing the 4-year-old foster child whose case drew national attention and whose body was never recovered.
A point Weintraub highlighted to jurors.
“There’s no requirement that a body be presented,” Weintraub told jurors. “The defendant made damn sure that the body would never be recovered.”
Rilya Wilson’s disappearance also tarnished the image of the Department of Children and Families (DCF). The state agency that oversees the welfare of children in foster homes did not realize the child had been missing for more than a year.
It led to high-level resignations and changes within the agency as well as passage of several reform laws.
Weintraub also reminded jurors of the state’s first witness — Pamela Kendrick, Rilya’s first foster mother. He characterized her home as unkempt, but loving. Rilya Wilson was born to a crack-addicted mother and was cared for by the Kendrick family soon after her birth.
But, DCF officials, at Graham’s insistence took her from the Kendricks and handed her over to the Grahams. That decision by a DCF supervisor led to what Weintraub said was Rilya’s “car ride to doom.”
But the key witnesses in the state’s murder case against Graham relies on three jailhouse snitches, including that of convicted armed robber Robin Lunceford who testified that Graham broke down and confessed to killing Rilya by smothering her with a pillow.
“This isn’t a bullet to the head with lights out, this is smothering the life out of a little child,” Weintraub told jurors.
All three jailhouse informants testified that Graham made incriminating statements about Rilya’s death to them. Defense attorneys have cast doubt on their motivation for testifying saying that Lunceford and others struck deals with the state to have their sentenced reduced or mitigated.
Graham has always maintained her innocence. She claimed an unknown state child welfare worker took Rilya for mental tests and never returned her. But trial testimony indicated that story is false.
No physical evidence has linked Graham to a murder.
Jury deliberations are expected to begin as early as Wednesday.