DCF investigator testifies in Rilya case

Geralyn Graham accused of killing foster girl; Wilson's body has never been found

Published On: Dec 06 2012 12:42:24 PM EST   Updated On: Dec 07 2012 07:58:07 AM EST
MIAMI -

Another former Department of Children and Families employee testified Thursday in the murder case against Geralyn Graham, who is accused of killing Rilya Wilson, her foster child.

Elizabeth Laufer was the first worker sent to investigate Graham when DCF realized Wilson was missing in 2002. Laufer testified that Graham didn't appear to be surprised when she spoke with her.

"It was like, 'Okay, this is the fact. Let's see what we can do about it,'" said Laufer.

Laufer said she found red flags about the case in court records, leading her to ask why Graham wasn't reporting Wilson's behavioral problems she later described.

"She had severe behavioral problems and very often the children who have these severe problems rub the feces or the urine on a wall," said Laufer. "There was an incident of gorging food, which is typical of a child who has been deprived of food."

Laufer said Graham told her someone from DCF had taken Wilson for an evaluation.

"She said that somebody who identified herself as being from the department came to the home and asked to take Rilya to an evaluation," said Laufer.

It was later revealed a former caseworker falsified reports about the girl's well-being and that supervisors took little action. The records DCF found raised eyebrows within the department.

"We were checking court files. We requested the case file, the legal file," said Barbara Toldeo, a former administrator at DCF. "The caregiver is different and the relationship to the child is different."

DCF found discrepancies about whether Graham's custody of Wilson was legal. Investigators found no information saying Wilson should have been anywhere but Graham's home.

"The file you received from protective services was totally incomplete and missing information, is that correct Miss Laufer?" asked defense attorney Scott Sakin.

"Yes," said Laufer.

Defense attorneys argued that Graham wouldn't know where Wilson was if DCF didn't.

Graham, 66, is on trial for murder in Rilya's disappearance. Prosecutors say Graham smothered Rilya with a pillow and buried her near a lake or canal.

"If Miss Graham is not responsible for Rilya's disappearance, then who is?" said U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson.

Graham insists she did not harm the child, whose body has never been found. The trial is expected to continue for several weeks. Graham faces life in prison if convicted.

Later in the trial, two jailhouse snitches are expected to testify that Graham confessed to killing Rilya.

Rilya's disappearance and the state's failure to learn about if for so long became a statewide scandal that had a broad impact on DCF and its policies, including high-level resignations and launching of a new child tracking system. In addition, state lawmakers made it a crime to falsify records of visits between caseworkers and children in the agency's care.