Jailhouse informant back on stand
Geralyn Graham accused of killing missing 4-year-old foster girl Rilya Wilson
A jailhouse informant testified Monday that a woman accused of killing 4-year-old Florida foster child Rilya Wilson wasn't afraid of being charged with murder because she was confident the girl's body would never be found.
Convicted murderer Maggie Carr, who acted as a law clerk for prison inmates, said she had several conversations with Geralyn Graham in early 2005 about the law involving murder cases in which remains are not found.
Carr, who is serving 25 years to life, said Graham was confident the body had decomposed and that no one would care because Rilya was only a poor foster child.
"She was nonchalant, like it didn't matter," Carr said. "They weren't lengthy conversations. They were snippets of conversations."
"Did you have any problems understanding her when she said, 'I'm not concerned; no body, no murder?'" asked prosecutor Josh Weintraub.
"No, sir," answered Carr.
"When she said they went to the elements, what was she referring to?" said Weintraub.
"Water, a body of water, critters - it was gone," said Carr.
Graham, 66, faces life in prison if convicted of killing Rilya, whose body has not been found. Another prison inmate, Robin Lunceford, testified earlier that Graham confessed to smothering Rilya with a pillow and disposing of the body near water. Lunceford said Graham came to believe Rilya was evil because of her increasingly defiant behavior.
Investigators say Rilya was likely killed in late 2000, but her disappearance wasn't discovered by state child welfare officials until about 15 months later. The case resulted in a shake-up at the Department of Children and Families and the passage of several foster child reforms, including improved tracking of children.
Graham lived with Rilya's legal custodian, Pamela Graham, but was the girl's main caretaker. The two are not related but were lovers. Geralyn Graham has insisted that Rilya was taken for mental tests by a state worker and never returned, but investigators say there is no evidence of that.
With no body and little forensic evidence, the jailhouse informants form the backbone of the state's case. Like Lunceford, Carr said her life in prison has become more difficult because of her testimony for the prosecution but that she felt compelled to come forward because the victim was so young.
"It's a child. I didn't do it for myself, sir," Carr said of her decision to testify. "I've chosen not to be a coward. I'm trying to pay for the things I've done wrong."
Carr was convicted for a role in the 1991 ambush slaying of British businessman Howard Bates after a $1 million embezzlement scheme went wrong. She encountered Graham and Lunceford at a state women's prison in Homestead.
"Twenty-two years ago, I had the opportunity to pick up the phone and make what was wrong right, and, basically, I was a coward. Twenty-two years later, which is today, I chose not to be a coward. And that's why I'm sitting here," said Carr.
Carr said her father tried stopping her from getting involved.
"He didn't want me involved, and he's upset," said Carr. "The way I was raised is - and I don't know if it makes any sense to someone else... the front door is the life for anyone else. From the front door of the house to the inside of the house. You don't get involved in other people's affairs and you don't involve anyone in your affairs. So you don't stick your nose in people's business and you don't do certain things like what I'm doing right now."
Defense attorneys credit her parole hearing in 2015 as the reason behind her testimony. Scott Sakin cross examined Carr on Monday.
"And in a murder case, what you're saying is there has to be a body," said Sakin.
"Correct," replied Carr.
"And in your own case, the body was buried, it was hidden," said Sakin.
"Correct," answered Carr.
Lunceford, who has spent half her life behind bars, had her life sentence reduced to 10 years in return for her testimony. Carr said she has been made no promises but hopes eventually to win parole or clemency because of her cooperation.
"I would hope to think that one day I would get a second chance," she said. "I've done everything in my life to be a better person."
Prosecutors hope to wrap up their main case this week. Graham's defense will then have its chance to put on witnesses. It's not clear whether Graham will testify in the case, which already has lasted about five weeks.