The trial is over, but the case of the little girl whose body was never found may never be truly closed. Last month, a Florida jury convicted Geralyn Graham, 67, of child abuse and kidnapping in the case of Rilya Wilson, who disappeared in 2000 at age 4. The jury could not reach a verdict on the count of murder against Graham, and a mistrial was declared on that charge. Today, Graham was sentenced to 55 years in prison, a sentence that means she probably won’t set foot outside of prison again. Prosecutors are unlikely to retry Graham on the murder count.
During trial, Graham’s former lover, Pamela Graham, who was Rilya’s legal foster mother, testified to witnessing Graham abuse the child. A neighbor tearfully recalled lending Graham a dog cage, which Graham then used to confine Rilya. Several jailhouse snitches also took the stand to testify against Graham. One, Robin Lunceford, told the court that Graham told her how she killed Rilya and buried her body. For her testimony, Lunceford’s life sentence was reduces to ten years.
The disappearance of Rilya, whose name, given to her by her birth mother, is an acronym for “Remember, I love you always,” brought much criticism to Florida’s Department of Child Services. Because the caseworker assigned to Rilya didn’t check on the child as required, the little girl’s disappearance went unnoticed for over a year. Following this case, DCF has changed its operations to prevent another child from falling through the cracks.