Agency knew about girl's disappearance for 6 days

Monday, May 6, 2002

MIAMI -- Florida's Department of Children and Families waited six days to tell police that it lost track of a 5-year-old girl under the state's care, according to internal memos obtained by The Miami Herald.

E-mails exchanged between caseworkers and the department's administrators in Tallahassee revealed that the agency instead used an internal procedure to try to locate Rilya Wilson, the newspaper reported Sunday.

"This one scares me," a department official wrote in one of the memos in reference to the case.

Rilya was reported missing to police April 25 after disappearing from her caretaker's home 15 months before. The child was living with Geralyn Graham, whom department records say is Rilya's paternal grandmother.

Graham told police a woman from Children and Families took Rilya from her west Miami-Dade County home in January 2001.

The child is now feared dead because police believe a beheaded body found last year in Kansas City, Mo., may match the missing Miami girl.

Caseworkers delayed telling the police because they believed they could locate the child themselves, said LaNedra Carroll, a spokeswoman for the child welfare agency.

"They systematically looked for the child as soon as they learned she was not where she was supposed to be," Carroll said.

"It's not as if there was any indication they needed to make a 911 call right away," she said. "They have to try to take the time to figure out what happened to the child."

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