MIAMI -- Fearing the worst -- that missing child Rilya Wilson was murdered -- but unable to prove it, prosecutors on yesterday charged her former caregiver with a host of horrors: tying Rilya's hands to a bed, confining her to a dog cage, and locking her in a "small, cramped" laundry room.
Police and prosecutors acknowledged that the new charges, filed more than two years after Rilya was reported missing, are intended to pressure people linked to caregiver Geralyn Graham into disclosing the little girl's fate.
"This is a concentrated effort to get more leads, to try to get additional prosecutions, and with luck and blessings, we may be able to find Rilya," Katherine Fernandez Rundle, state attorney for Miami-Dade County, said at a news conference.
Prosecutors brought the charges after Geralyn Graham's housemate turned on her and recently made incriminating statements detailing the alleged child abuse. Rilya would turn 8 next month.
Police charged Graham, 58, her primary caregiver, with three counts of aggravated child abuse and one count of kidnapping, which carries a potential life sentence. She already is serving time for welfare fraud at the Women's Detention Center in Miami.
Police charged Pamela Graham, 39, Geralyn's former roommate and Rilya's legal custodian, with two lesser child-abuse counts, saying Pamela Graham witnessed Rilya's treatment but failed to protect her.
Pamela Graham is cooperating with police.
On yesterday, Pamela Graham was booked and released on her own recognizance on instructions of the state attorney's office, jail spokeswoman Janelle Hall said.
Angelique Parks, Geralyn Graham's daughter, scoffed at the charges. She said a dog cage that police removed from her mother's home earlier was hers, and was there to contain her dog when she visited. "I don't know anything about keeping a child in a dog cage; that's crazy," she said.
Parks also questioned how her mother could have tied Rilya to a bed because Geralyn Graham couldn't use her hands due to arthritis.
Rilya has been the focus of a massive police investigation since April 2002, when state child-welfare workers discovered she had vanished from the Grahams' Southwest Miami-Dade home.
Rilya had entered the state's child-protection system after a judge terminated the parental rights of her drug-abusing mother. In 2000, the Department of Children and Families placed her with Pamela Graham, although over time, Geralyn Graham unofficially assumed more control over Rilya's care.
The abuse allegedly occurred between August and December 2000, police reports state. Investigators later determined Rilya was last seen in January 2001.
Miami-Dade Police Director Robert Parker said police hope Rilya is alive, but their instincts and investigation suggest otherwise: "We fear that she's not."
Parker said detectives are convinced Geralyn Graham lied in 2002 when she said a DCF caseworker came to her home a year earlier and took Rilya. "No such action was taken by DCF," Parker said.