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The case of Bridget Garcia and Regina Greenhill has come to a close without a clear resolution. Citing a lack of evidence, the State Attorney's Office has decided not to charge Garcia with exploiting Greenhill, a widowed stroke victim for whom Garcia worked as a private nurse. The State Attorney's Office also has declined to press charges against Greenhill's son, whom Garcia claims raped and impregnated her.
"I don't know what happened," says Assistant State Attorney Tammy Forrest. "All I know is I can't prove anything."
The relationship between Garcia and Greenhill was the subject of a three-part New Times investigation, "Love and Violation" (August 17, August 24, and September 7). The story raised serious questions about the Aventura Police Department's handling of Garcia's rape claim.
Garcia worked for Greenhill for nearly two years, cooking and caring for the elderly widow in her Aventura condominium seven days a week for up to sixteen hours per day. The two women grew so close that the wealthy Greenhill began rewarding her employee with generous gifts, including a new Infiniti automobile, a small diamond ring, and a house in which the nurse could live rent-free.
The gifts generated ill will among Greenhill's two grown sons, Joel and Daniel, who both live outside Florida. After arguing with their mother for months, the sons had the nurse fired. Two days after her termination, though, Garcia told Aventura police she had been physically assaulted by Daniel Greenhill, who had been visiting his mother from his home in Israel. The assault, Garcia said, had taken place just before her dismissal.
Hours after Garcia accused him of assault, Daniel Greenhill filed his own set of charges with the Aventura Police Department. He accused Garcia of exploiting his mother, a crime under Florida law. With dueling accusations to investigate, the police concentrated primarily on Daniel Greenhill's exploitation claim, which they deemed more credible.
"The lady is a fraud," police Chief Tom Ribel told New Times. "She's taking advantage of elderly people and tapping into their assets. We wanted very much to arrest her for extorting money.... She was bleeding assets off the estate."
Despite the department's certainty of Garcia's guilt, no charges were brought. "The State [Attorney's Office] didn't feel comfortable," Ribel said then. "It was one of those things where we know it's wrong but they can't take it. I'm not the prosecutor."
Garcia didn't help her standing with Aventura officials when five months later, in March 1999, she told police that Daniel Greenhill had not merely assaulted her as she had claimed but instead had raped and impregnated her in the condominium while Regina Greenhill slept in her bedroom. Skeptical detectives, required by law to investigate the rape allegation, used the opportunity to investigate Garcia a second time. They determined that money Regina Greenhill had allegedly given her nurse for an abortion had been used to pay bills. (Garcia claimed she had subsequently miscarried.) The rape allegation, police pointed out, was made only after Garcia had been evicted from the home Greenhill owned.
In his final report, Det. James Cumbie noted that Garcia's doctor said her patient had not been impregnated. He also disclosed that Garcia flunked a lie-detector test given at his request. He closed the case without forwarding any charges to prosecutors.
In an interview with New Times, Garcia's doctor insisted she had been badly misquoted in Cumbie's report. Dr. Kathryn Lotspeich said she had not claimed Garcia never was pregnant. In fact Lotspeich believed Garcia likely had been raped. New Times also asked Warren D. Holmes, one of the most experienced and credible polygraphers in the United States, to examine the police-administered lie-detector test. He discredited the exam. After voluntarily giving Garcia his own test, Holmes changed his opinion of Garcia's story from skepticism to assured belief. "She was assaulted," he declared. "The story she tells is the truth."
Following publication of "Love and Violation," Aventura Police reopened the case, again handing it to Detective Cumbie. He performed a perfunctory investigation. According to Assistant State Attorney Forrest, the detective never bothered to call Daniel Greenhill in Israel to ask him about the rape accusation. He never spoke again with Bridget's physician, nor did he contact Holmes to discuss the second, more thorough polygraph. He did forward rape charges to the State Attorney's Office but accompanied them with the old charges that Garcia had exploited her employer, Forrest reports.
No charges will be filed. There are no witnesses, and there is no physical evidence. There wasn't much opportunity to gather any, Forrest says. "With the rape charges being disclosed so late [after the alleged incident], there's only so much the police can do," the prosecutor explains.
Told of the decision not to prosecute, Aventura police Chief Tom Ribel had no comment. Greenhill family attorney Michael Snyder also declined comment. This past September Regina Greenhill moved to Atlanta to be near her son Joel.
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As of last week Bridget Garcia was living in a motel in Sunny Isles Beach. She says she is planning on moving, though she will not say where. She hasn't been returning the phone calls of an attorney a relative hired for her.
Garcia, who still wears the diamond ring Regina Greenhill gave her, says she recently found a letter Greenhill sent to her soon after the alleged assault. "She apologizes for everything Danny did to me," Garcia claims. She will not let New Times inspect the letter, nor will she provide a medical record she recently discovered that she claims proves her pregnancy.
"I want to forget about it," she says of her rape case. "I want to forget about it for the new year. I don't think you know how painful it is. I wish I had never opened my mouth."