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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Caretakers Arrested in Wilson Case

Aired October 2, 2002 - 10:29   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Now we have breaking news now on the case of Rilya Wilson. She is the little girl that has been missing in Florida, lost in the foster care system that has garnered so much attention across the country. Some arrests have been made in this case, not necessarily concerning the whereabouts of Rilya Wilson. Still arrests in this case, related to this case, and her caretakers.
Let's bring in our Susan Candiotti, who is in Florida working the story -- Susan.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Daryn. Yes, sadly this -- unfortunately does not move anyone any closer to finding now 7-year-old Rilya Wilson. She would have turned 7 last Sunday. However, the first arrests in connection with the case have been made.

Four people are being arrested. Three are in custody so far, including the two caretakers of the little girl, Geralyn Graham and Pamela Graham, as well as one of their sons. A fourth person is being charged. However, that person's name is not being disclosed. We asked whether it is the case worker of the little girl, who no longer works for the state of Florida, and we were told "no comment."

We do understand these charges have to do with, in part, fraudulently receiving, allegedly, public assistance from the state of Florida once Rilya Wilson had already left the care of the little girl.

You'll remember that the last time the state -- a state case worker had seen little Rilya Wilson was back in January of 2001. That is when, according to her caretakers, a state social worker came to take the little girl away for tests, and no one discovered that she was missing after that for at least another 15 months. That was back in January of 2001. In April of last year is when everyone found out something was wrong. According to the lawyer who represents Pamela and Geralyn Graham, he says he is just finding out about these charges.

He says he is concerned about them, and wonders if the police are trying to squeeze his clients for additional information. Again, this doesn't have any direct bearing on learning anything more about where Rilya Wilson is. However, these are the first arrests in connection with her disappearance -- Daryn.

KAGAN: And that's the tragic turn there, that still there's no clue about where she is, or what could have happened to this little girl. And just refresh our memories, when we talk about caretaker, aren't we talking about the woman originally identified as her grandmother, who was taking of her, but then it actually kind of came out that she is not actually the biological grandmother of Rilya Wilson.

CANDIOTTI: That is correct. Apparently, she is not a blood relation to the little girl. She and another woman are described now as the caretakers. Police sources have told us that, in fact, the women who have said they were sisters, are not. The women say they are sisters, but there seems to be some question about that as well.

In any case, it's certainly is a story that tugs at everyone's heart strings, and unfortunately, even the police say right now they are no closer to finding out what happened to little Rilya.

KAGAN: And what tugs at so many people's heart strings is that it seems like along the way, so many adults have let this little girl down, so it seems to me, Susan, what these charges are alleging that these people, who were taking care of Rilya Wilson, not only did they not report her missing but they continued, according to these charges -- they continued, allegedly, to collect the money that they were receiving in order to provide for her care, even though she was missing for some time.

CANDIOTTI: That is right, and the women do acknowledge that they continued to receive this money. However, they have consistently said that the reason they kept receiving public assistance on the little girl's behalf is that that is what the case worker told them to do, they say.

And that, in other words, the little girl would be coming back to them, according to the two women who were taking care of little Rilya. Therefore, they said too much red tape to stop the flow of money, keep receiving it, because you'll be getting the little girl back. That's been their defense.

KAGAN: Got it. Susan Candiotti in Florida, thank you, with the latest on Rilya Wilson and these fraud charges filed against her caretakers. Thank you.

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