Geralyn Graham Sentenced to 55 Years in Prison in Rilya Wilson Case

Caretaker of missing girl sentenced after being found guilty of kidnapping, child abuse

View Comments (
)
|
Email
|
Print

    NEWSLETTERS

    Circuit Judge Marisa Tinkler Mendez gave the sentence to Geralyn Graham following her conviction of kidnapping and child abuse in the case of missing foster child Rilya Wilson. Graham briefly addressed the judge. Congresswoman Frederica Wilson and Rilya Wilson's older sister, Brandy Sims, spoke about the case.

    The South Florida woman convicted of kidnapping and child abuse in the case of missing 4-year-old Rilya Wilson was sentenced to 55 years behind bars Tuesday.

    Geralyn Graham, 67, was sentenced to 30 years on the kidnapping charge, followed by a consecutive term of 25 years for two counts of aggravated child abuse, Circuit Judge Marisa Tinkler Mendez ruled.

    "For you Ms. Graham, the jury has spoken. You have been found to be the person responsible for the senseless, cruel and inhumane acts directed toward this innocent and defenseless child, Rilya Wilson," Tinkler Mendez said. "You are responsible for inflicting unimaginable pain and for instilling fear in this child and for repeatedly abusing this child."

    VIDEO: Watch Geralyn Graham Talk Before Her Sentencing on Tuesday.

    Judge Sentences Geralyn Graham to 55 Years in Prison in Rilya Wilson Case

    [MI] Judge Sentences Geralyn Graham to 55 Years in Prison in Rilya Wilson Case
    Geralyn Graham was sentenced to 55 years in prison on Tuesday in the disappearance of Rilya Wilson. Watch the raw video.

    Graham was also sentenced to five years on a child abuse charge, which will run concurrent to the aggravated child abuse sentence.

    Rilya Wilson Case Unlikely With New Technology

    The sentencing hearing began shortly after 10 a.m., with prosecutors presenting their arguments for why Graham should be given the maximum sentence.

    "The acts of this defendant in restraining a child such as Rilya, 4 years old, by tying her to her bed and not allowing her freedom of movement, the act of isolating this child in a darkened laundry room not for hours, or just days but sometimes weeks at a time. The use of a dog cage to additionally punish a child," prosecutor Sally Weintraub said. "All these forms of punishment are the absolute definition of what the law as you set it out for the jurors describes as malicious, hatred, spiteful and evil intent."

    Geralyn Graham Talks to the Judge Before Being Sentenced to 55 Years

    [MI] Geralyn Graham Talks to the Judge Before Being Sentenced to 55 Years
    Just before her sentencing, Geralyn Graham spoke in court and said the truth will come out in the Rilya Wilson case. She also asked the judge for mercy. She was sentenced to 55 years in prison for the case.

    Graham's attorney said any sentence in excess of the guideline range would likely result in her dying in prison.

    Graham, who appeared in court in an orange prison outfit and used a walker to get around, briefly addressed the judge.

    "Despite what you've heard in this courtroom, Rilya is a very special child to me," Graham said. "I miss her and I love her deeply."

    Graham said it upset her to know that people thought she was capable of the abuse.

    Judge Declares Mistrial on Geralyn Graham Murder Charge

    [MI] Judge Declares Mistrial on Geralyn Graham Murder Charge
    Geralyn Graham was convicted on four counts, but the jurors couldn't agree on whether Graham killed foster child Rilya Wilson, leading to a mistrial on her first-degree murder charge. Circuit Judge Marisa Tinkler Mendez declared the mistrial in court. The Rev. Willie Sims, who adopted Rilya's sister, said justice was served. Defense attorney Scott Sakin and prosecutor Joshua Weintraub also gave their reactions.

    "I only tried to help Rilya. I love her too much to have ever done anything to her," Graham said. "Things have been greatly exaggerated and I've been found guilty by a jury of terrible crimes. I hope to be able to prove my innocence."

    Tinkler Mendez said one would have to be "inherently evil" to treat the little girl the way she was treated.

    "Rilya Wilson deserved nothing less than a loving, nurturing and caring environment, instead she lived in fear and suffered in a house of torture, torment and abuse," the judge said. "What you have done here is inexcusable."

    Graham was found guilty of the two charges last month but jurors couldn't agree on a murder charge, leading to a mistrial on that count. Prosecutors said they wouldn't try Graham a second time on the murder charge.

    VIDEO: Judge Declares Mistrial on Geralyn Graham Murder Charge

    Graham was accused of killing Rilya, who went missing in late 2000. The girl's disappearance was not discovered for 15 months. That lapse led to high-level resignations at the state Department of Children and Families and passage of child welfare reform laws.

    "We can only hope that lessons have been learned and these terrible misdeeds and mistakes are never repeated," Tinkler Mendez said.

    Rilya's body has never been found. Graham, who was Rilya's caretaker, has long maintained her innocence and her attorneys said they are planning to appeal the convictions.

    "The truth will come out," Graham said at Tuesday's sentencing. 

    More Local Stories: