New details uncovered in 1999 Charlotte County cold case
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CHARLOTTE COUNTY, Fla. - It's a cold case that's captivated southwest Florida for well over a decade. Two-year-old Pilar Rodriguez went missing in Punta Gorda while her babysitter was looking after her. Since then, deputies have been unable to find her body.
Keith Wilson's grandmother says she can't believe it. But investigators are sure they have their man. He was extradited to the Charlotte County Jail from Kentucky this week. But he hasn't given investigators the one piece of information they need to close the case: where is little Pilar's body?
Two-year-old Pilar Rodriguez liked barbies dolls and her teddy bear and rag doll. She disappeared in February 1999. Investigators say 42-year-old Keith Wilson, who was dating her babysitter, at the time, murdered Pilar. Wilson's grandmother, Virginia Wilson, who asked us not to show her face, says her grandson is innocent.
"Nobody would ever make me believe that he would harm a child," said Virginia. "Never!"
But in newly-released documents, prosecutors claim Wilson "placed a dog collar around Pillar's neck and kept her tied to the bed frame with a leash". That he "forced her to sleep in the closet, take cold showers, air dry and stay awake all night while standing up."
That's according to a July 16 sworn statement from the girl's babysitter, Melissa Harding-Jones, who was looking after Pillar at the time. She says Wilson, who was her then-boyfriend, would visit at night and abuse them.
Harding-Jones says she was, too. She claims Wilson "would often beat, slap, body-slam choke and forcefully sodomize her." She claimed he began abusing Pilar after Harding-Jones told him Pillar's father had come on to her.
Harding-Jones told detectives that she realized Pillar was dead one night after she found her "lying on the couch unresponsive". She says when Wilson returned from work, he "placed Pilar on the floor and then into a trash bag" along with her belongings and disappeared.
Virginia Wilson stands by her grandson. "He wasn't raised that way," she said. "He wasn't raised like to do cruel things. And to me, the stories they're telling, are cruel."
Wilson is in jail without bond and faces a charge of first degree murder. Prosecutors know it will help to get a conviction if they find Pilar's body. They say they have new clues that could help them do that but they're not saying what those are.