MIAMI (AP) — The legal custodian of missing foster child Rilya Wilson testified Monday that she suspected the worst when the girl abruptly disappeared in late 2000 but did not contact police or child welfare officials because she was afraid of taking the blame.

Pamela Graham, 48, also told jurors she never reported abuse involving the 4-year-old girl — including being tied to a bed with her wrists in plastic restraints — because she feared her live-in lover and the girl’s main caretaker, Geralyn Graham, who is on trial for murder in Rilya’s disappearance.

Pamela Graham, who is not related to Geralyn although they claimed at times to be sisters, said her companion ran their household and lashed out when her authority was challenged. Pamela Graham, however, had legal custody of Rilya and a younger sister, Rodericka.

“She was always controlling and dominant. I was just afraid her,” Pamela Graham testified. Her voice frequently quavered and she dabbed at her eyes with a tissue during much of the daylong testimony.

Geralyn Graham, 66, faces life in prison if convicted of first-degree murder, child abuse and kidnapping charges. Pamela Graham made a deal with prosecutors to plead guilty to child abuse and child neglect charges in return for her testimony, and likely will face no jail time.

An attorney for Geralyn Graham, Scott Sakin, sharply questioned Pamela Graham’s credibility on cross-examination because of the lies she told, such as claiming the two were sisters on a job application and inflating her educational achievements on state forms.

“You were already on your road to lies back then, right?” Sakin said. Pamela Graham did not answer after prosecutors objected.

Rilya’s body has never been found and Pamela Graham said she does not know what happened to her. The girl’s disappearance caused a statewide scandal because child welfare officials did not realize she was missing for some 15 months, eventually leading to changes in monitoring of foster children and other child welfare reforms.

In the fall of 2000, Pamela Graham said the relationship between Rilya and Geralyn Graham was worsening. On Halloween that year, Rilya wasn’t allowed to go trick-or-treating because she insisted on wearing a Cleopatra mask instead of the angel costume that had been bought for her. A short time later, Pamela Graham said, there were scrape marks on the sides of Rilya’s head where the mask had been glued on and then taken off.

Another time, Pamela Graham said she found Rilya crying in a bathtub of “extremely hot” water. Geralyn Graham told her it was punishment for wetting her bed. The bed restraints, Pamela Graham added, were to prevent Rilya from getting up at night and climbing on kitchen counters to reach sweet treats in a high cabinet.

One day in December of 2000, Pamela Graham returned from work to find Rilya gone. She said Geralyn Graham didn’t offer much of an explanation.

“She said (Rilya) wasn’t coming back and I wasn’t going to see her anymore,” Pamela Graham testified. “She just kept telling me Rilya was OK and not to worry. I thought something bad had happened.”

She said the two argued heatedly, and at one point that night, she started to call police but did not when Geralyn Graham threatened her with a hammer. Yet Pamela Graham admitted having her own selfish motives for not going to authorities.

“I was scared and I knew that I was the one that had legal custody of her. I was just afraid that whatever happened to her, I would be blamed for,” Pamela Graham said. “”It was selfish, I know, thinking about myself instead of her.”

Eventually, Geralyn Graham said they would tell anyone who asked that a Department of Children and Families worker had taken Rilya for mental testing and never returned her. To friends, they said she was on a trip to New York. Pamela Graham said none of it was true, but she remained silent for years.

It wasn’t until May 2004 that Pamela Graham admitted to a cold case investigator that there were many lies surrounding Rilya’s disappearance, including the story about a DCF worker taking the girl away. That was when she began cooperating.

“I was tired of carrying the lies I had previously told,” she said.

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5 thoughts on “Missing Fla. Foster Child’s Custodian Feared Worst

  1. Danita Wilson-Jackson on said:

    I am a living relative of Rilya’s. I know you all think that she has no living relatives, but she does. Her mother’s name was Gloria Wilson and yes, she is deceased. But she also has a grandmother, aunts, brothers, sisters, and cousins who are hurt and left in limbo about what happened to her. Rilya’s mom may have made her mistakes as a mother, however, she loved all her children dearly. Regardless of the fact that she did not have custody, she trusted that the child welfare would place her daughter in a safe and loving home, and they failed to do just that. Now, we are all left with unanswered questions. I never had the chance to meet Rilya, but I loved here nonetheless. She is and always will be my family. Gloria was trying to get her life back on track when she went missing. Unfortunately, her health and finances would not allow her to get back custody of any of her children. This did not stop her from checking on their well being and doing what she could to help the ones she was allowed contact with. I just wanted you to know that Rilya was not alone and she will be greatly missed. I wish I had the chance to meet her and take care of her when her mother couldn’t, then we would know that she was safe and happy. We cannot change the past, all we can do is move forward and hope for the best in the future. I just hope that these people tell truth about what happened and they are brought to justice.

  2. Madeleine Fisher on said:

    If you think Linda`s story is nice, , won weak-ago my sisters girlfriend basically also easily made $8467 workin eleven hours a week from their apartment and their neighbor’s step-mother`s neighbour was doing this for 8-months and easily made over $8467 part-time at there pc. applie the guidelines available here …….. BIT40.ℂOℳ

  3. Franklin on said:

    Our “Justice System” stinks!! This “rachet trash” needs to be put to death along with the one she is accusing, they are BOTH murderers!! She doesn’t deserve a “DEAL” as she made her deal to be a co-conspirator in the childs DEATH………………smdh {:

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