In the wake of a two-part New Times cover story, and following multiple death threats made against the subject of that story, the Aventura Police Department has reopened its investigation into rape charges filed by Bridget Garcia, a certified nursing assistant who worked for an Aventura widow.
Aventura Police Chief Tom Ribel had little comment other than to confirm that the case once again is active. If this guy raped her, then we want to get him, Ribel offered, referring to suspect Daniel Greenhill, who resides in Israel. And if he didn't, then we want to make sure he can live in peace.
Garcia was the subject of a New Times series titled Love and Violation (August 17 and August 24). The stories detailed the disastrous ending to her two-year working relationship with wealthy Aventura widow Regina Greenhill, who is 87 years old. Although the two women shared an indisputably close relationship, Garcia was fired from her position last October. Greenhill family members insisted Garcia was dismissed because she had fleeced her employer of valuable property, including a new Infiniti automobile Regina had bought for her as a birthday present. Garcia countered with allegations that she was fired immediately after one of Regina's two grown sons, 57-year-old Daniel, violently raped her on a sofa while his mother napped in an adjoining bedroom.
Bridget, who is 50 years old, reported the alleged rape to the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office within days of the assault. A clerk there told her prosecutors would not pursue the case because Daniel Greenhill was about to return to Israel.
Later saying she wanted to protect her friend Regina from embarrassment, Garcia waited nearly five more months before filing a report with the Aventura Police Department. When she did, police investigators summarily dismissed her claim, relying primarily on incriminating statements from Garcia's doctor as well as the results of a police-sponsored lie-detector test, which Garcia failed.
A New Times investigation discredited both pieces of evidence. In an interview with New Times, the doctor actually supported Garcia's story and said she was severely misquoted by police. A renowned polygraph expert refuted the Aventura Police Department's lie-detector test. After testing Garcia himself, polygrapher Warren D. Holmes concluded that her rape allegation is exceptionally credible.
Aventura police investigators never interviewed Daniel Greenhill about the alleged rape, which Garcia says took place October 10, 1999, during Daniel's six-week-long visit to his mother's Aventura condominium. They also did not interview family friends, condominium neighbors, or a doctor who reportedly determined that Garcia had become pregnant as a result of the alleged assault. Among other evidence never examined were the torn and stained uniform and underwear Bridget was wearing the day she says she was attacked, even though she retained those clothes.
That clothing is now in the hands of the Aventura Police Department, which received it following a series of anonymous death threats leveled against Garcia and New Times.
New Times received the first threat on Monday, August 14. While it is not unusual for a newspaper to receive threats following the publication of an unflattering story, this incident took place two days prior to publication of part one of the series. If you go ahead and publish the story, the two of them, Bridget Garcia and Robert Andrew Powell, are going to be dead, said a fast-talking man with a heavy accent. He did not identify himself.
The caller warned a New Times receptionist that she should not contact law-enforcement authorities, but New Times immediately filed a report with the Miami Police Department. The State Attorney's Office subsequently attempted to trace the call, without success.
On the evening of August 16, the day the paper was distributed, Garcia filed her own police report, this one with the Miami-Dade Police Department. According to the report, she said she answered a knock on her front door thinking it was her daughter returning from the store. Once the door was opened, a tall and heavy white male between 50 and 60 years old, with graying straight black hair and a mustache, pushed his way into the house. Garcia told police the man put a black handgun to her chest, grabbed her arm, and said, Why did you have that story printed in the newspaper, and how much did you get paid for the story? He asked for the address and phone number of the New Times reporter and threatened to kill both the reporter and Garcia if the story wasn't retracted.
New Times has not received another death threat. Garcia, though, has received several telephoned threats and has filed two more police reports. She saved two of the calls, both from unidentified males, on her home voice-mail system. One, which her caller-ID service indicates came from a pay phone, said simply: I'm going to kill you. The other commanded her to shut up and stop talking.
A tape recording of the messages was delivered to the Miami-Dade Police Department, which is investigating the telephoned death threats in conjunction with the incident involving the August 16 intruder; the police have labeled the intrusion an armed burglary. During her initial interview with detectives after encountering the intruder, Garcia voluntarily surrendered the clothes she says she was wearing the day she was raped. Miami-Dade police officials promptly delivered the clothes to the Aventura Police Department, where Chief Ribel says they will be examined as evidence.
I don't know why they've done this, Garcia says regarding the death threats. I don't know. I guess they're trying to scare me. They're doing a good job. I'm scared. I don't sleep at night, I don't.
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Last week Aventura Det. James Cumbie, the same detective who investigated and discounted her rape claim, visited Garcia at her home in North Miami-Dade. The now-unemployed immigrant from St. Croix has sold much of her furniture, save her bed. Most of her clothes are stored in gray plastic garbage bags. She often sits in the house alone, in the dark. He asked me all about the newspaper article, Garcia recalls of her interview with Cumbie. He wanted to know where did I meet you and why did you come [interview me]. Did I call you? he asked. He wanted to know everything. He didn't like that story. He doesn't like the fact that I spoke to you. (Cumbie could not be reached for comment.)
Even with two police agencies now investigating, the State Attorney's Office also is considering what role to play, if any. The matter has been referred to the head of the sex-battery unit to have her review the whole situation to determine whether charges are appropriate, says spokesman Don Ungurait.
Greenhill family attorney Michael Snyder has little to say about the reopened investigation. It's news to me, he comments.