55-year sentence in Fla. missing foster child case

MIAMI — A woman who once cared for missing foster child Rilya Wilson was sentenced Tuesday to 55 years in prison for kidnapping and child-abuse convictions, closing a case that spanned more than a decade and triggered changes in the child-welfare system in Florida.

Circuit Judge Marisa Tinkler Mendez imposed the sentence on Geralyn Graham, 67, who was convicted last month following an eight-week trial. With a lone holdout, jurors were unable to agree on her guilt or innocence on a first-degree murder charge, and prosecutors are unlikely to ­retry Graham on that count.

Tinkler Mendez said ­evidence showed 4-year-old Rilya was subjected to ‘‘senseless, cruel, and inhumane acts’’ at the hands of Graham.


“One can only be inherently evil to inflict that type of pain and torment on an innocent child,” the judge said.

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Assistant State Attorney Sally Weintraub said Rilya went from a loving foster home to an “abyss” with Graham that kept the child in terror during her final months.

“We trust that with this sentencing there will be some measure of satisfaction to those people who loved Rilya,” Weintraub said.

The judge sentenced ­Graham to 30 years for kidnapping plus 25 years for aggravated child abuse. Two other abuse sentences — 25 years and five years, respectively — will be served concurrently for a total of 55 years behind bars.

Prosecutors had sought the maximum of life plus 65 years.

Associated Press