Tuesday, August 23, 2005

My client gets bond, like everyone else

Accused killer of foster child Rilya Wilson granted bond

By Curt Anderson
Associated Press Writer
Posted August 23 2005, 5:44 PM EDT


MIAMI -- A judge ruled Tuesday that Geralyn Graham, the woman accused of murdering foster child Rilya Wilson, deserved to be released on bond after the key witness against her refused to testify.

Although Graham, 59, will remain behind bars until May at the earliest because she is serving a sentence for an unrelated motor vehicle fraud conviction, her attorney said the decision by Circuit Judge Andrew Hague to grant bond in Rilya's killing suggested the prosecution's case is weak.

``This additional murder charge is based on nothing _ absolutely nothing,'' said the lawyer, Brian Tannebaum. Bond on a first-degree murder charge in Florida is rare, but allowable.

Hague announced his decision after Robin Lunceford, 42, repeatedly invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when asked questions about Graham and the Wilson case. Graham was indicted for the child's murder after Lunceford told investigators that Graham confessed to her in jail of killing Rilya.

Lunceford, who has a lengthy criminal record, has since been convicted of armed robbery and could get life in prison when sentenced Sept. 9. Her lawyer, Ellis Rubin, said he advised Lunceford against testifying Tuesday because he intends to ask for a new trial in her robbery case.

``I don't want her to give any testimony that might jeopardize my arguments for a new trial,'' Rubin told reporters Tuesday.

Tannebaum, however, said Lunceford's refusal to answer any questions Tuesday indicates that she no longer is interested in testifying against Graham, now that she has less to gain because of the robbery conviction.

``I think that says a lot about this case,'' he said.

Hague set bond for Graham on the murder charge at $100,000, which would be added to the $150,000 bond previously set on a kidnapping charge for a total of $250,000. Graham, who sat passively in court in a maroon jail jumpsuit during the hearing, also would be subjected to electronic monitoring and other restrictions.

Assistant State Attorney Sally Weintraub argued against bond, pointing out that Graham had a list of 45 aliases with matching false Social Security numbers and should be considered both a flight risk and a danger to the community.

Hague showed some sympathy for that argument but ultimately decided the evidence was not strong enough to justify holding her without bond.

Also appearing at Tuesday's hearing was Pamela Graham, who described herself as Geralyn Graham's ex-lover and who is cooperating with prosecutors in the murder case. Pamela Graham, who is not related to Geralyn, was asked briefly about Geralyn Graham's ties to the community and whether she appeared likely to flee if released.

Police believe Rilya, whose body has never been found, was dead more than 15 months before the state Department of Children & Families realized in April 2002 that the girl was missing despite a requirement for monthly home visits. She was supposed to be under state supervision after being taken from a drug-addicted mother.

The Grahams claimed she had been removed from the home by a state worker in January or February 2001. The discovery that Rilya was missing triggered a search that extended nationally and to the Bahamas, but police claim the Grahams lied about the girl's disappearance to cover up her slaying.

The girl's unnoticed disappearance triggered a review of the state's child protection system and led to resignations by the DCF chief, some Miami administrators and caseworkers.