MIAMI - Geralyn Graham, who was convicted of abusing 4-year-old foster child Rilya Wilson more than a decade ago, will be sentenced Tuesday.
The judge overseeing the case declared a mistrial on the first-degree murder charge Graham faced because jurors were unable resolve their 11-1 vote. Jurors convicted Graham, 67, of kidnapping and aggravated child abuse.
The jury could have opted for a less severe manslaughter charge rather than murder. All verdicts must be unanimous.
Sentencing is scheduled for 10 a.m. U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson is expected to attend.
Prosecutors said 67-year-old Geralyn Graham, who was Rilya's caretaker, smothered the girl with a pillow in December 2000 and disposed of her body, which has never been found. Key to the case is a purported jailhouse confession by Graham to career criminal Robin Lunceford, who said Graham told her she did it because Rilya was evil and demonic.
Before that, trial testimony showed Rilya was kept in a dog cage, tied to her bed with plastic restraints and forced for long periods to stay in a small laundry room as punishment for disobedience.
Rilya's disappearance went unnoticed by state officials for 15 months, triggering high-level resignations at the Department of Children and Families and leading to passage of several reform laws, such as better tracking of foster children. A caseworker who failed to check up on Rilya in person during all those months eventually pleaded guilty to official misconduct charges for falsifying time sheets.
Graham's defense raised the possibility Rilya might have been sold and could still be alive. They questioned the credibility of Lunceford — whose life sentence was cut to 10 years in exchange for her testimony — and the fact that no physical evidence exists showing a crime was committed.
Two other prison inmates also testified that Graham implicated herself in Rilya's killing. Friends and acquaintances said Graham told various stories about the girl's disappearance, such as trips to Disney World and New York, and she told investigators the girl had been taken for mental tests by a state caseworker and never returned.
Authorities found no evidence to back up those explanations.
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