No DNA Link in Missing Girl Case
No DNA Link in Missing Girl Case
RACHEL LA CORTE
May. 11, 2002
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MIAMI (AP) _ DNA tests have ruled out the possibility that a beheaded body found in Missouri is that of 5-year-old Rilya Wilson, whose disappearance went unnoticed by Florida child welfare workers for more than a year.
Miami police also said Friday that the two women who were caring for Rilya had failed lie detector tests, though they would not disclose the questions.
``We can't take anybody at their word,'' Miami-Dade police director Carlos Alvarez said. Asked whether charges were planned, he said: ``Nobody is immune.''
Rilya has not been seen since January 2001, when she disappeared from the Miami home. She wasn't reported missing until April 25 after one of her caretakers said she thought a state worker had taken Rilya away for tests.
There had been speculation that Rilya was the beheaded girl whose body was found last year in Kansas City, Mo. But police said tests on saliva from Rilya's mother showed a match with the girl nicknamed Precious Doe was ``scientifically impossible.''
Florida authorities offered a $25,000 reward Friday for information about Rilya.
``The DNA tests have provided a ray of hope that Rilya will be found safe and well,'' said Tim Moore, state law enforcement commissioner. ``We're hoping that this will provide additional leads that we can work on.''
Moore said detectives consider the case a missing child investigation and are checking with other states and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
The state took custody of Rilya in 1996, when she was 5 weeks old, because her mother was homeless and addicted to cocaine. The Department of Children & Families failed to make required monthly visits last year, but there has been finger-pointing about who in the agency is to blame.
State officials have said Pamela Graham was given legal custody of the girl. She is the sister of Geralyn Graham, who claims to be Rilya's grandmother. State officials have said the identity of Rilya's father is in dispute and the girl's mother, Gloria Wilson, has refused to disclose his identity.
Both Geralyn and Pamela Graham say Rilya was taken from their home by a woman who said she was a state worker.
The Grahams have denied any wrongdoing in the case and their attorney, Ed Shohat, disputed the findings of the lie-detector tests. He said the women were upset when the test was administered because police had just told them that Rilya might be the slain girl in Kansas City.
``From my experience, that would have been the worst possible time to administer the polygraph on somebody,'' Shohat said.
There were also new questions about whether Geralyn Graham should have been left alone with Rilya. In a 1997 deposition involving a personal-injury lawsuit, Geralyn Graham acknowledged setting a kitchen fire when she fell asleep while cooking an egg.
In the same case, Circuit Judge Norman Gerstein examined Graham's criminal record and said: ``She's got the paperwork of someone who has scammed the system for many years.''
``The flip side is that she's got a 25-year documented history of a major mental health problem,'' Gerstein said.
Shohat, the woman's attorney, said he has not been able to talk with her current doctor to get an updated assessment of any dementia.
Also Friday, officials said new technology should help the Department of Children & Families keep better tabs on children in its care. The testimony came before a blue ribbon panel appointed by Gov. Jeb Bush that is investigating the agency's handling of Rilya's case.
The new automated filing system replaces cumbersome paper, said Mike Watkins, the department's director of family safety.
On the Net:
Department of Children & Families: http://www.state.fl.us/cf_web