By David Villano
By Jose D. Duran
By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Luther Campbell
By Frank Owen
By Allie Conti
Regina Greenhill is a wealthy Jewish widow. A stroke victim, she lives alone in a condominium tower, just across a parking lot from the Aventura Mall. Bridget Garcia is a working-class black native of the U.S. Virgin Islands. For nearly two years Bridget worked as Regina's private nurse, spending up to sixteen hours per day cooking Regina's meals, taking her grocery shopping, and escorting her to the library for the books Regina loves to read in bed.
Theirs was far more than an employer-employee relationship. The two women grew so close that Regina began surprising her aide with gifts, including a modest diamond ring and, as a birthday present, a not-so-modest Infiniti automobile. She bought a house and allowed Bridget to live in it rent free. Although the two women spent every day of the year together, Regina still telephoned Bridget before retiring each night, talking for fifteen minutes or so until she removed her hearing aids and rolled over to sleep. They regularly spoke of their love for each other.
From the perspective of Regina's two adult sons, the women were too close. Bridget received the car and the free lodging and the jewelry and who knows what else, they say, by preying on Regina's loneliness and mental frailty.
“There's no doubt there was a strong bond between them,” asserts Daniel Greenhill. “But the strong bond was part of Bridget's tactics of gaining control over my mother, to manipulate and take advantage of my mother's weakness recovering from a stroke and other such things. She was taking very, very good care of her and being supportive and even saying she loved her -- but it was all a damned trick.”
Daniel and his brother, Joel, fired Bridget this past October. What followed was a series of accusations and counteraccusations that confounded an already complex family melodrama. While the Greenhill sons allege Bridget fleeced their elderly mother, Bridget leveled an even more explosive charge: One of the sons, Daniel, raped and impregnated her in his mother's living room as Regina napped in an adjoining bedroom.
The Aventura police investigated both charges, making no arrests. Tom Ribel, police chief of the small affluent city, says Bridget's rape account lacked credibility. For one thing she didn't file the charge until more than five months after the alleged incident, after she'd been evicted from her free housing. And according to the police investigation, Bridget's doctor verified her patient had never been pregnant. Bridget also failed a lie-detector test conducted at the request of the rape case's lead detective.
It's unusual to give a polygraph test to the supposed victim, but Chief Ribel clarifies that as far as his department was concerned, Bridget was a suspect, not a victim. “The lady is a fraud,” he declares flatly. “She's taking advantage of elderly people and tapping into their assets. We wanted very much to arrest her for extorting money from [Regina]. She was bleeding assets off the estate.”
Ribel, it appears, was too quick to condemn the nurse. New Times has documented egregious flaws in the Aventura Police Department's investigation. The doctor who supposedly refuted Bridget's pregnancy claim insists she did no such thing. In fact the doctor believes her patient was indeed raped. One of the foremost lie-detector experts in the United States found glaring problems in the police polygraph test. And when this highly respected professional conducted his own polygraph test of Bridget's credibility, he came up with radically different results.
The police never formally interviewed Daniel Greenhill as a suspect in the rape, though Bridget says she told them she could describe his genitals. The police never inspected the torn and stained uniform and underwear Bridget was wearing on the day she says she was attacked, though she still has this clothing. They never tracked down the doctor Bridget claims confirmed her pregnancy.
Furthermore the police never interviewed Regina Greenhill about the alleged rape outside the presence of the attorney who also represents both her sons. This attorney, Michael Snyder, maintained an active presence throughout the rape investigation, regularly faxing material to the police department. So strong was the lawyer's involvement that Bridget sought a restraining order against him, telling the court he was badgering her to accept a payoff to keep her mouth shut. Snyder later secured his own restraining order -- against Bridget. Snyder happens to be the son of Aventura Mayor Arthur Snyder.
If Bridget Garcia was offered a payoff, she never took it. Even today, while Regina openly refers to her former nurse as a liar, Bridget remains unwavering in her claim: She was raped. And Daniel Greenhill was the one who raped her.
The Aventura city seal is remarkably true to life. It features a sailboat gliding past one of the dozens of bland concrete condominium high-rises that crowd the skyline. Regina Greenhill lives on the tenth floor of one of these condos, the Bonavida. It is a secure and well-maintained building located on a street where elderly men take afternoon strolls wearing white pants and floppy terrycloth hats. The Bonavida's lobby is all marble and mirrors. A shuffleboard court waits alongside the outdoor pool. The elevators glide smoothly to the tenth floor.
Regina's current nurse answers the door, revealing a living room carpeted in bright pastel shag. A white leather sofa faces the television. In the distance a balcony overlooks the green fairways of the Turnberry Isle golf course. Just off the living room is a small kitchen decorated with fading garish wallpaper. A tiny woman in a blue nightgown sits at a small table, eating a lunch of fruit-flavored yogurt. A shock of gray hair rises above her head, revealing eyes that are bright and focused. She offers a greeting in a strong voice sweetened by a mild Southern accent. “You'll have to speak up,” she says with a broad smile. “I'm hard of hearing.”
Regina's smile vanishes, however, at the mention of her relationship with Bridget Garcia. “We're through with all that,” she snips. “The case, everything, it's all closed.” She refers all questions to her lawyer, Michael Snyder, adding one caveat: “Don't believe anything Bridget says. She is an accomplished liar. She is a very accomplished liar.”
Regina was born 87 years ago in Washington, D.C., into a prominent family. Her father helped found the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith. Her sister, Miriam Ottenberg, won a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting at the now-defunct Washington Star. Her mother, Russian immigrant Nettie Ottenberg, helped write the District of Columbia's juvenile-court law. At age 75, after she won funding from the U.S. Senate for one of her pet causes, Nettie became known as the Mother of Day Care. The Ottenberg Bakery, founded by Regina's grandfather Isaac, remains a family-owned Washington institution.
Regina relocated to Florida with her husband, Jerry, an engineer. She raised their two boys and worked as a psychiatric social worker. Even after she retired, Regina remained active. She devoted herself to the National Council of Jewish Women, where she served as vice president of community service. She supported the Democratic Party. After son Daniel chose to settle in the Middle East, she joined the Association of Parents of American Israelis, serving as secretary. Her activities continued even after Jerry died in 1984.
But about five years ago, she suffered a mild stroke. Ever since then she has been under the care of a private nurse, though friends stress that she retains her keen intellect and drive. “Regina is a lovely, refined lady, a tremendous lady,” offers Wilma Morrison Friedman, a Bonavida neighbor. “I'm much younger than Regina, yet even into her eighties she was driving me to Bible-study classes at Beth Torah. She's amazing.”
There were problems with the nurse who preceded Bridget. “This woman was very crass and insensitive to Mom,” reports Daniel Greenhill during a telephone interview from Israel. “She acted in a dictatorial fashion, arguing, for instance, if you asked her to turn down the kitchen radio instead of keeping it blaring all day long.” Neighbors gently complained that Regina sometimes smelled of urine.
In June 1998 the family replaced that nurse with Bridget Garcia. Bridget was 48 years old at the time. Although she was born and reared in St. Croix, she moved to Florida more than 25 years ago at the urging of a sister who had already relocated. In time she married a Honduran man, gave birth to two daughters, and eventually divorced, claiming her husband was too jealous.
While in St. Croix, Bridget typed memos and legal briefs in a lawyer's office. After moving to Florida, she found work folding towels at a Miami Beach hotel. To escape this low-paying drudgery, she attended a vocational school to earn certification as a nursing assistant. Although her occupational choice provided a step up from folding towels, CNAs toil in a low echelon of the medical field, well below registered nurses in both pay and prestige.
Bridget works primarily with the elderly, making beds and meals and ensuring proper medications are taken at the correct times. Sometimes she'll help a client for six months, until he or she recuperates from an illness. Often she'll stay longer than that. For more than twelve years she worked exclusively for a rabbi in Miami Beach, until his death. She followed that job with a two-year stint assisting a woman in Miami Beach until she too died. A few months later, a home health-care agency placed Bridget with Regina. Bridget impressed Regina and her son Joel so much they hired her privately, to save on agency fees.
Bridget is tall for a woman, with a slow rolling walk. Her dark hair lies lacquered straight and parted on the left side. She does not wear makeup. She is a bit overweight, though she weighs nowhere near the 250 pounds listed in one court document. Her speech is seasoned with a charming Caribbean lilt. When meeting new people, Bridget offers her hand passively, limply. She seldom makes eye contact with anyone, often shyly turning her head down and away, as if by doing so she could render herself invisible.
At the Bonavida a comfortable routine developed. Regina rose every morning around 7:00 to read the Miami Herald. Bridget arrived around 9:00 and immediately began fixing breakfast. Together they might eat some Raisin Bran, or perhaps oatmeal with a banana.
After breakfast Regina retired to the living room, where she'd sit in her favorite green chair. She'd read the paper more closely while Bridget washed the dishes, made the bed, and got Regina's clothes out for the day. Bridget turned on the shower, setting the water at the proper temperature.
Following the bath, the two usually exercised together. Sometimes they'd walk around the golf course. Other times they'd go downstairs to the work-out room to ride the stationary bicycles for half an hour. They returned to the apartment around noon. Regina ate a cup of yogurt or maybe a cheese sandwich or a scrambled egg, then removed her hearing aids and napped until late afternoon.
While Regina slept, Bridget prepared dinner, which the two would later eat together. When the dishes were clean, Bridget joined Regina in watching Wheel of Fortune followed by The Lawrence Welk Show. At about 8:00 or 9:00 most nights Regina retired to bed, where she would read a book late into the night, usually even after Bridget went home at 10:30 or 11:00. Every night without fail Regina telephoned Bridget to make sure she had made it home safely.
This pattern repeated seven days a week, every day of the year. Regina still paid all her own bills, so sometimes they'd go to the bank in Regina's 1991 Dodge Dynasty. Other days they might shop for groceries or visit the library. Most Sunday evenings they'd go out to eat with Regina's friend, Edna Schonwetter. One Sunday when Bridget was running late on an errand, Regina left her a note on the back of a bank deposit slip. “Dear Bridget,” she wrote in her shaky cursive, “We've gone to Turnbagel with Edna, left at 4:30 -- you can join us. Love, Regina.”
Under Bridget's care Regina's health and spirits improved dramatically, according to Daniel Greenhill and others. She stopped using the depression medication she'd been taking for more than a year. Neighbors noticed a change in her appearance and demeanor. “Bridget took very good care of her,” agrees Edna Schonwetter.
Bridget developed a deep affection for her patient, an endearment she expresses in her typically understated way. “She's a good person,” Bridget offers, after some thought. “She has a good heart. She's just a nice person in every way. You feel comfortable to be around her. She's not a bother to you. She's very nice to talk to. She's very sweet. She's interesting.”
Regina developed an equally endearing bond with her nurse. One day the two women went shopping at a North Miami Beach jewelry store. After browsing the display cases for a while, Regina purchased a ring for each of them. Bridget's ring cost $450. It is a simple gold-and-diamond wedding band that she still wears on her ring finger. A few months later, Regina bought a $125,000 house in North Miami and let Bridget and her children stay there rent- free.
In December 1998, only six months after hiring Bridget as her nurse, Regina helped her new best friend turn 49 years old. “The morning of my birthday she says she has a surprise for me,” Bridget recalls. “I thought we were going out to lunch; that's what I thought. When she told me it was a car, I could not believe it. She said, “I'm going to buy you a car for your birthday.' I was shocked. I said, “A car, Gina?' She said, “Yes, honey, I'm going to buy you a new car for your birthday. You deserve it.' Just like that. She told the gentleman at the car dealership: “She deserves it.'”
Regina's generosity may be best understood in the context of her unsettled family affairs. At the time Bridget entered her life, Regina was trying hard to maintain her independence, in particular from her son Joel, a dentist in Georgia. Bridget says Regina had returned to Florida from Atlanta, where at Joel's request she'd lived briefly -- and unhappily -- in a nursing home. Back in Aventura she was able to live basically as she pleased, as long as Bridget was there to help her.
Joel Greenhill declined to be interviewed for this article, stating only that his mother “is not in good health. I'm not interested in doing anything that would get her more upset.” But the family's concerns were made quite clear in a letter his wife, Janet, sent to Regina last year.
“What has happened to you?” Janet Greenhill wrote. “What has happened to your feelings for my husband? Where is the woman who said, “I'll do anything for my Joel.' Is she gone forever? Your actions of late make us all wonder. We wonder why this woman, Bridget, whom you've know for a year, is more important to you than your own son, your granddaughters.... We wonder how you could surprise her with a car on her birthday but forget Jaclyn and Shannon's occasions. We wonder why your allegiance is to her though you know Joel's feelings about the situation. We wonder why, basically, you've told Joel that your affairs aren't any of his business.
“... We've begged you to come here, to Atlanta, to live, and be close by. If you wanted, your life could be full instead of nearly empty. You've chosen to remain in Miami, and I guess because Bridget is your only contact, she's become the most important one in your life. But she's not family. She is a paid employee. And if there weren't a salary involved, she wouldn't be hanging around. Your family would, though.
“... Ever since this stuff started happening with Bridget, I've kept quiet. No more. The situation is bizarre, it makes no sense, and the Regina that I've known for so long wouldn't be making the decisions that you've been making lately. I'm hoping that this period will pass. I'm hoping, once again, your first allegiance will be to Joel. I'm hoping you'll remember your grandchildren. I'm hoping you'll remember that family is the most important thing. We'll always be there. Will Bridget?”
Regina turned over this letter to Bridget for safekeeping, as she did a May 1999 letter from a family attorney affriming her decision to remove Joel as trustee of her estate. (“She said Joel snoops around in her things,” Bridget says by way of explanation.) When Regina fell and broke a rib, she refused to let Bridget call Joel, according to Bridget. “Gina doesn't trust him,” relates the nurse. “That's why she took him off as a trustee. She said she didn't trust Joel.
“She asked me to be her trustee several times,” Bridget adds. “It's too much responsibility and I didn't want that. She begged me many, many times at the table, when we were having supper in the evening. At one time she said to me that if this continues, she's going to leave every penny she has to the Jewish Fund. It's her money, she would say, she can do whatever she wanted to do. Gina is very brilliant. Very brilliant. For 87 years old, she's not a fool.”
Daniel Greenhill contends Bridget is lying about the chilly relations between Joel and his mother. Even though Regina did remove Joel as a trustee and even though the letter from Janet speaks of a conflict, Daniel says Joel and Regina never fell out of touch. “In fact the opposite occurred,” Daniel asserts. “Joel is a very, very devoted son doing a tremendous amount to help her in any number of ways. If it hadn't been for him, she would have gone down the drain.
“My brother deserves all the credit,” Daniel continues. “He was really the one who blocked the gifts that Bridget had coerced my mother to give her. There were some very, very unpleasant episodes. I had to go there to be in the middle of this -- supposedly for a family visit but also to keep an eye on things, because my brother couldn't go down there for any length of time.”
Police reports describe Daniel as standing five feet five inches tall and weighing a hefty 185 pounds. He has a scar on his left ear and a full head of graying brown hair. He lives full-time in the desert city of Beersheba, Israel, seeing his mother in South Florida only every two years or so. He's 57 years old. “I usually teach English,” he says of his occupation. “Mostly technical English to adults. I also do work with children. I have a bachelor's degree in English and a master's in education psychology. Lately I've gotten very interested in spiritual disciplines, therapies of different sorts.”
With tension high between Joel, Regina, and Bridget, Daniel arrived at his mother's condo in September 1999 for a six-week visit. He stayed in the living room, on the sofa bed, rarely leaving the apartment. Sometimes he'd retrieve the mail. Other times, if Regina gave him money, he might visit Wal-Mart to stock up on T-shirts, socks, and underwear. At night he, Regina, and Bridget might dine at La Paloma or another restaurant. Bridget's first impression of Daniel was positive. “When I came in on the day he arrived he says, “Hi, Bridget.' Even when he called his mother over the phone before I saw him in person, he spoke very nice over the phone.”
According to Bridget on that first day she met Daniel, with Regina in the bathroom, Daniel announced he'd brought the nurse a gift from Israel. Bridget carefully opened the wrapping paper. “It was a calendar and a pen,” she recalls. “The calendar was with a naked woman on top. I threw it out. It just didn't appeal to me. I just didn't like the look of it. But in my mind I just didn't think anything. He sounded very nice and good and everything.”
Bridget went about her work. Over the next four weeks, Daniel spoke to her “very nicely,” she says. “He would make dirty jokes to his mother. I wouldn't pay attention to them. She would say, “Watch your mouth, Danny,' but I paid no attention to him. He was always there. I would just do whatever I had to do to prepare his and Regina's meals.”
Sticking to the schedule, Regina napped every afternoon. After fixing supper Bridget usually sat on the balcony and watched the palm tree shadows lengthen over the golf course. “He would be on the couch sometimes if I did this,” Bridget recollects. “I'd see him watching me, but I paid no attention to it. He had a Bible or a book he was reading up close to his face. He was watching me over the book, then when I turned around he puts the book back up. But I didn't pay any attention to it. I just thought, like, he's funny or whatever. Then he would get down on his knees and pray some type of praying then clap his hands and stomp his feet. I tell you, he's a character. He spoke about some kind of oil he could rub me down with and it would heal me from whatever it is, God knows what.”
One afternoon Bridget was in the kitchen preparing chicken for supper. As usual she wore her white nurse's uniform. She had removed her overcoat, which resembles a doctor's lab coat, and hung it on a kitchen chair. Her uniform blouse was decorated with pale flowers and butterflies. Daniel walked into the narrow kitchen while her back was turned to him. “He came up behind me and started touching me to the sink like this,” she says, using her body to illustrate being pinned against the countertop. “I just pushed his elbows away. He said, “Don't take me serious.'
“He came back the same day and put his hand under my uniform and started touching my breast,” she continues. “Then he wrote a note and stuck it in my breast pocket. I have the paper; let me get it for you.” She retrieves a note, handwritten on a patch of lined white notebook paper. It is a recommendation to read two books on the study of past lives: Many Lives, Many Masters and Through Time into Healing. Both books were written by Miami-based psychiatrist Brian L. Weiss.
“He told me if I got these books he can pray with me and help me. If I am sick he can heal me,” Bridget remembers. “I was cleaning chicken, you know, and some of the chicken fell on the floor. He said to just calm down, just calm down. He saw I was very angry. I put the chicken in the garbage. I thought he was crazy. I was shocked. I was surprised, angry. I said to him, “What do you think you are doing?' He said, “I'm just admiring you.'”
Daniel soon left the apartment to fetch the mail, Bridget recounts. When Regina woke up, Bridget told her what had happened. “She said, “Honey, he's only joking.' I said, “Joking!' She said he plays around a lot, he fools around a lot. She said she would speak to him, which she did. She asked him why he did it. She said, “Don't you do that to her again. Don't touch her.'”
Two days later Daniel pulled the same stunt, Bridget maintains. She was standing at the counter preparing ground beef for dinner. With her back turned to Daniel, he slipped into the kitchen and again put his hands inside her uniform, she says, on her breasts and down her pants. “I turned around and slapped him,” Bridget recalls. “He keeps saying, “Calm down, calm down.' That's all he keeps saying. When I slapped him he says, “What was this about?' Regina was sleeping and I woke her up. Gina called him in right away. She was very angry at him, very angry at her son. She said, “If it happens one more time, I'm going to ask you to leave my house.' He didn't deny it. His face was red when I told her about it. He said, “I'm sorry, Mom. I'm sorry, Bridget.'”
Even after this alleged second assault, Bridget stayed at the condo working for Regina. She figured that Regina hadn't done anything wrong to her and that the elderly woman still needed her help. She believed she could just ignore Daniel, work around him somehow. “When I cooked I used to put food on the table for Gina and him and I, but I didn't do that no more,” she says. “Now I'd just go sit out on the balcony until they were done. There was a tension and I knew in her heart it was bothering Regina as much as it was bothering me. But I couldn't sit at the same table with Daniel. I could not. I couldn't do it.”
On October 10 Bridget went to the condominium as always. When lunch concluded, she put Regina to bed and returned to the kitchen to clean the dishes and prepare supper. Daniel waited in the living room while she cooked. The following is her version of what happened, an account also contained in police reports:
“I guess he had something planned which I never thought of. I finished cooking dinner and I went out toward the balcony. I was going to just sit out there. As I was walking to the porch, he came around at a different angle and he blocked the door with his arm.
“I said, “What are you doing?' and he said, “Don't go on the porch; come sit, I want to talk.' And I said, “Talk about what?' And he said, “Just sit down; we have to talk.' I said, “No, I have nothing to say.' Then I went to walk back toward the kitchen. He went around fast to the other door and refused to let me walk in the kitchen. He put his hand over the entry again. He has a big strong arm. Then I came back around, but everywhere I walked he kept blocking my entrance. My mind was racing. I didn't know what to do.
“I tried to go back on the porch, but he blocked the entrance. I bent under him to run into the kitchen. That's when he grabbed me and pulled me onto the [open sofa] bed. I cut both of my legs on the iron rails. He tore my blouse I had on. It was ripped and when it came down he tugged at the sleeves. When I started to scream Gina's name, he squeezed my throat so hard that blood came out of my mouth. Gina didn't hear. I knew in my heart she couldn't hear me, because she didn't have her hearing aids on.
“He was like an animal. He raped me. He raped me. He is brutish. I felt like I was going to die or pass out. I felt like I was in another world. I didn't believe it. It happened so fast and I was not expecting it, you know? I would never expect that, never. I knew he acted crazy but not like that. He ejaculated after about fifteen or twenty minutes at the most. He told me that if he still had his police license he would slash my throat. I was like, “Why?'
“He gets up and acts like he doesn't care. He acts normal, like nothing happened. I called him all type of names I could think of, all types of names. Then he said to me: “I bet you enjoyed it.' I was going out of my mind and he was just calm. I said to him: “You know something? I'm going to make a police report of it.' He said, “Nobody's going to believe you. You're black. You don't have any money and you can't defend yourself. Nobody's going to believe you.'
“I took a shower. I couldn't believe it. It was like I couldn't believe it happened. Then I waited until Regina woke up. I was sitting on a chair in the kitchen. He was reading a book or whatever. He's sick. Sick.
“When she woke up I was crying. I went in and I sat next to her and I told her everything. She cried. She had no trouble believing me. She was very sad for me. She kept saying, “Honey, I'm sorry. He promised me he was over that, that he would never do that again.' She said, “I'm very sorry. I'm sorry he hurt you. She came out after and he didn't deny it to his mother. I went back into the kitchen and she spoke to him. She said, “You promised me, Daniel, this would never happen again. What have you done to me?'
“Regina called Joel. I think she called his home first, then his office where he works. She didn't eat what I prepared for her, the dinner. I told her to eat but she says she's not hungry and to just make her a hot cup of tea. I stayed the full day, until 10:30. He was there the whole time. That was hard, it was. But I did everything for Gina. Not him, just Gina.
“When I was going home that evening he came to the door. And he told me to keep it between the both of us. I would probably have sweet dreams of him, he said with a smirk on his face. He said, “I bet you enjoyed every bit of it.' I hate that man.
“The next morning I was late for work. She kept calling me, calling my house. She said she needed me, please come in. She needed me. And I said to her, “Gina the car is not working.' I lied. That is the first time I lied to her.”
(Daniel has always denied sexually assaulting Bridget. “I never touched her,” he says from Israel. “I never came near her. I would not have lowered myself in any case.”)
Later that day, after her fib to Regina about the car, one day after the alleged rape, Bridget was fired. She says the Greenhill family's estate attorney, Barry Nelson, called to inform her that her services no longer were needed. He instructed her to visit the lobby at the Bonavida to pick up some personal items she had left behind at Regina's. (Nelson declined to discuss the situation surrounding Bridget's termination.)
Before returning to the Bonavida, Bridget didn't tell anyone about Daniel. She kept quiet, she says, because she didn't want to hurt Regina. “I tried to hold it in but it was very hard,” she explains. “In my mind I was thinking of Gina. She asked me not to say anything for her sake. She didn't want the condo to know about it. But it turned out it was her vice president from her condo who called the Aventura police.”
Bridget is referring to Saul Cooper, a former member of the condo's board of directors. Cooper was in the Bonavida's management office on the morning of October 13 when Bridget came to retrieve her belongings. He noticed something was bothering her and persuaded her to open up to him. “She told me the son had touched her and had tried to have sex with her,” Cooper recalls. “I could tell something was very wrong. It was my obligation as vice president of the Bonavida to call the police if I see something wrong, so I called Chief Ribel.”
Two Aventura police officers came out to the condo to interview Bridget. She did not tell them about a rape, according to the report they later filed. Instead she only offered that Daniel had assaulted her, twice. The officers asked if she had been dressed in an enticing manner. They asked her if she had led on Daniel in any way. Then they went upstairs to visit with Daniel. Reporting officer Mike Giordano wrote, “I spoke with Mr. Greenhill, who said that the accusation is false.” Daniel also said he would be returning to Israel in six days. The police never interviewed Regina about Bridget's allegations, nor did they investigate further. Bridget was referred to the State Attorney's Office if she wanted to pursue the matter.
That was at 12:20 p.m. Three hours later the police were back at the condo, this time at the request of Daniel. Exploitation of the elderly was the accusation; Bridget was the suspect. Cpl. Thomas Mundy, one of the officers responding to Saul Cooper's initial call, interviewed Regina. In his report he noted that she “does not suffer from any mental illness, nor is she on any mediation for same. As I spoke to her, she was coherent and articulate. She gave me reasonable answers to all questions I asked.
“... Ms. Greenhill explained to me how Bridget was a very good employee and on how she enjoyed her company,” Mundy wrote in his report. “I questioned Ms. Greenhill as to the reason for purchasing a home in the name of Ms. Garcia. Her explanation was, “I thought it was all right.'” (The officer apparently misunderstood the nature of the home purchase. It wasn't in Bridget's name; she simply lived there.)
Although the police department had chosen not to follow up on the assault charges filed by Bridget, and though Corporal Mundy determined that Regina was of sound mind and did not consider herself exploited, the department decided to investigate further. Det. James Cumbie interviewed Regina Greenhill again. “In discussion she advised that she at times feels afraid or intimidated by her son [Daniel],” he wrote in his report, “and that yes she did buy Bridget a car as a gift. Bridget has been working at her apartment for several years and she has never had a problem. Ms. Greenhill does not believe that she did anything wrong buying the car.
“... Ms. Greenhill has no mental illness, was coherent when interviewed, is not taking medication that would affect her knowing right from wrong, and gave reasonable answers to all questions,” Cumbie concluded. “There was no misrepresentation or false promise made by Ms. Garcia. She did not induce or encourage or solicit Ms. Greenhill to enter into any contract.”
After an assistant state attorney advised that no crime had occurred, Cumbie requested the case be closed. Even so, a month later he discussed the investigation with yet another assistant state attorney. Again it was determined that no crime had been committed.
Looking back on this investigation, Chief Ribel rejects the identical findings of his corporal and detective that Regina had not been exploited. “We ran this by the State Attorney's Office,” he says. Even though Regina was clearly of sound mind, Ribel still believes Bridget committed a crime. “We wanted very much to arrest [Bridget] for extorting money from the mother,” he explains. “The State [Attorney's Office] didn't feel comfortable. It was one of those cases where we know it's wrong, but they can't take it. I'm not the prosecutor.”
This is the first installment of a two-part article. Next week: The Greenhill family attorney goes on the offensive, a critical analysis of the Aventura Police Department investigation, and a revealing new polygraph test for Bridget Garcia.