The state’s case rests heavily on the testimony of three jailhouse informants who claim that Graham implicated herself behind bars when she was in jail on a fraud charge.
The star witness, career criminal Robin Lunceford, said Graham told her she smothered Rilya with a pillow in December 2000 and disposed of the body near water.
Lunceford said Graham considered the child evil and referred to the girl as “it.” One of the last straws was Rilya’s insistence on wearing a Cleopatra mask on Halloween rather than an angel costume, Lunceford testified.
The defense has raised questions about Lunceford’s motivation, noting that she got a life prison sentence reduced to 10 years in exchange for her testimony.
Weintraub told jurors that Graham made up a series of stories for friends who noticed Rilya was no longer at her home, including a claim that an unidentified DCF worker had taken the girl for mental tests and never returned her. At other times, she told friends Rilya was on trips to Disney World, New York or New Jersey. She also told people Rilya had severe behavioral problems, including spreading feces around the house, trying to hurt her younger sister and touching men’s private parts.
Investigators had no evidence to back up Graham’s stories or the claims of Rilya’s bad behavior.
“Lies, deceit and cover-up,” the prosecutor said. “It’s all lies to distract them from the horrible truth of what happened.”
Sitting in the courtroom Tuesday was Pamela Kendrick, who was Rilya’s foster parent until DCF removed the girl in April 2000 at Graham’s insistence. Weintraub said witnesses from those days remember a happy little girl who loved dolls and was doing well in preschool.
Those who knew her during Graham’s time painted a far different picture.
“Rilya was ostracized. Rilya was isolated,” Weintraub said. “She wasn’t smiling. She wasn’t laughing. This was a sad little girl.”