FLORIDA Two are charged with abusing girl



Caseworkers did not make required visits to check on the girl.
MIAMI (AP) -- Two women who cared for a still-missing Florida girl were charged Wednesday with abusing her before she vanished -- placing her in an animal cage and tying her to her bed.
Geralyn Graham, 58, was charged with kidnapping and aggravated child abuse causing great bodily harm for actions leading up to the disappearance of Rilya Wilson -- an unsolved case that rocked Florida's child welfare agency.
Rilya was an infant when she was taken from her homeless, crack-addicted mother, Gloria Wilson, of East Cleveland, Ohio, in 2000.
Graham already is serving a three-year sentence for fraud.
Her roommate, Pamela Graham, was charged with child abuse causing no great harm and for child neglect.
The charges allege abuse before Rilya's suspected disappearance in 2001, when she was 4.
Police think she's dead
"We would hope that Rilya Wilson is alive," Miami-Dade police director Robert Parker said. "But in actuality, we fear that actually she's not alive."
Police said in the last five months of 2000, Geralyn Graham punished the girl by locking her in an animal cage, tying her to her bed and confining her in a laundry room. She could get a life sentence if convicted.
Pamela Graham, 39, who is cooperating with investigators, is accused of failing to protect the girl. She could get 10 years.
The state Department of Children & amp; Families discovered in April 2002 that Rilya was missing and that caseworkers had not made required visits to check on her for at least 15 months.
Pamela Graham had custody of the girl and was receiving state aid as her caregiver; Geralyn Graham claimed to be Rilya's grandmother. The women initially identified themselves as half-sisters, but Pamela Graham told co-workers Geralyn was her wife.
Said she was taken
The Grahams say the girl was taken from their home by a DCF worker in January 2001. The agency and police deny that.
"This was really a lie, and I emphasize it was a fabrication and a concoction," Parker said.
Brian Tannebaum, Geralyn Graham's attorney, said he stood by what "my client says and I don't have any evidence to the contrary."
Pamela Graham's attorney, Martin Beguiristain, declined to comment.
Geralyn Graham was sentenced last year on charges that included accepting welfare payments for the girl long after she disappeared. Pamela Graham was sentenced to two years of probation.
Rilya's last assigned social worker, DeBorah Muskelly, was placed on probation for official misconduct and agreed to repay the state $2,736 for filing false time sheets.
The state's botched handling of Rilya's care led to a blue-ribbon committee's investigation of DCF and a management shake-up.
"As a result of the Rilya Wilson case the department has made numerous, significant improvements to ensure this type of tragic crime cannot be repeated," DCF spokesman Bill Spann said.
But the advocacy group Florida's Children First issued a statement noting 515 foster children are unaccounted for by DCF, and said "very little has been done" to improve life for the state's foster children.

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