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Former foster mom’s murder trial to begin

NEED TO KNOW
  • 4-year-old Rilya Wilson vanished in 2000; body never found
  • Her ex-foster mom could face death penalty in child's death
  • Opening statements for Geralyn Graham's trial begin Monday
Geralyn Graham, a former foster mother, is accused of killing Rilya Wilson, who was under her care.
Geralyn Graham

It's been more than a decade since 4-year-old Rilya Wilson disappeared from south Florida. Geralyn Graham, her former foster mother, is now standing trial, accused of killing the child who was under her care.

Attorneys will give their opening statements in Graham’s trial on Monday. The 66-year-old is charged with first-degree murder, kidnapping, and aggravated child abuse. She could face the death penalty if she's convicted.

Wilson’s body was never found, and Graham maintains that she is innocent.

Wilson’s disappearance sparked public outcry for reforming the child welfare procedures in the Florida Department of Children & Families.  DCF was unaware Wilson was missing until 2002, more than a year after she was last seen.

In response, the Florida Legislature passed the Rilya Wilson Act which requires closer monitoring of children in DCF's care.

In 2002, Graham told case workers an unidentified DCF employee took the girl. Wilson’s disappearance remained a mystery for a couple more years. But a break in the case came in 2004 when a jailhouse informant told authorities that Graham confessed to suffocating the girl and disposing of her body in a canal.

Multiple delays postponed Graham’s trial, including scheduling problems, a medical issue involving one of Graham’s attorneys and a new judge being assigned to the case.

Graham’s trial is expected to last several weeks.

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