Geralyn Graham whispered the confession while they shared a cell in August, an informer awaiting a robbery trial says in court papers.
By Associated Press
Published April 8, 2005
MIAMI - The caregiver charged with murdering foster child Rilya Wilson whispered "I killed it" to a jail cellmate and said she suffocated the 4-year-old because she "had demons," according to the inmate's account in court papers released Thursday.
Robin Lunceford said Geralyn Graham confessed to her and explained that she smothered Rilya with a pillow after Rilya insisted on wearing a Cleopatra costume - something Graham considered evil - for Halloween instead of an angel outfit as Graham wanted.
"Her words were that she knew, at that point, there was no help for the baby and she knew what she had to do and that's it. That was the end of that," Lunceford told prosecutors in a sworn statement. "She said the baby was suffering and she couldn't let it grow up to suffer like that."
Lunceford said Graham, 59, also told her she buried Rilya's body in a ravine near a private lake because "water represents peace" and Rilya had gone there for fishing and cookouts.
Police have not found Rilya's body there or anywhere.
Graham has pleaded not guilty to the charges and faces trial in June.
Prosecutors are relying largely on Lunceford's statement in charging Graham with killing Rilya, who investigators think was already dead when child welfare workers realized she was missing from her foster home in 2002.
Rilya's legal guardian, Pamela Graham, shared the home with Geralyn Graham and is cooperating with prosecutors.
The Grahams, who are not related, claimed a state social worker took the child in early 2001 for medical testing and never returned. The girl's disappearance had gone unnoticed by the Florida Department of Children and Families for months. The scandal led to a major shakeup at the agency.
Lunceford, 42, has a lengthy criminal history and is awaiting trial on armed robbery charges. Geralyn Graham's attorney, Brian Tannebaum, attacked her credibility and questioned whether authorities have any corroborating physical evidence.
"They claim to have corroboration but I don't see it," Tannebaum said.
Prosecutors did release statements from jail officials indicating Lunceford made claims to them about hearing Graham confess while they were jailed together last August. One official provided Lunceford with paper to write out what was said, resulting in a two-page handwritten document that was also released.
Lunceford said she received no promises of lenient treatment in exchange for her statement.
"There are criminals, and then there are monsters, and who could hurt a child but a monster, and why wouldn't I report that?" Lunceford told prosecutors.
Graham was jailed on unrelated fraud charges when authorities on Aug. 18 brought child abuse and kidnapping charges against her. That day, Lunceford said, Graham "broke down and started crying" and described what happened to Rilya, including several instances of abuse before she wound up in the Grahams' home.
"She said that the baby was evil. At one point, she said something about the baby had demons" resulting from repeated sexual abuse in a former foster home, Lunceford said.
Lunceford said Graham told her she locked Rilya in a dog cage when she was bad and struck the girl on occasion. But it wasn't until Halloween - Lunceford didn't know the exact date - when the argument over the Cleopatra costume became "the last straw."
"She was in a whisper voice, like she couldn't say it loud; she just said it, like, whispered to me, "I killed it,' " Lunceford recounted.