A man has been jailed for life for abusing and murdering a four-year-old who his babysitter girlfriend was looking after in 1999.
Keith Wilson, 46, was sentenced in Florida on Monday for the death of four-year-old Pilar Rodriguez.
His former girlfriend Melissa Harding previously told authorities how Wilson beat her to death then tried to bury her body after sexually abusing her at his home in Punta Gorda 18 years ago.
Harding, who worked for Pilar’s parents in Fort Lauderdale, had taken her with her on a two-week vacation to visit Wilson in Punta Gorda at the time.
When she failed to bring Pilar back with her afterwards, the family reported her missing but neither Harding nor Wilson was arrested.
It was not until 2009 when, after a revived effort from detectives in Punta Gorda, Harding finally confessed to having been involved.
She told police how in the two weeks that she spent there, Wilson beat, tortured and raped Pilar.
Keith Wilson, 46, has been jailed for life for the 1999 murder of Pilar Rodriguez, a four-year-old who he beat, tortured and killed while she was staying with him and his girlfriend who was babysitting her
Court documents at the time described how he Wilson tied Pilar to a bed frame with a leash and made her stand awake through the night in just two of his several sick disciplining tactics.
Pilar’s babysitter Melissa Harding had taken her to stay with Wilson. She will be sentenced next month
On other occasions, he would hit Pilar across the head and forced her to wear a dog collar. He also cut her hair short to try to make her look like a boy, prosecutors said.
Several days before her death, he raped the child as another form of punishment.
At the time, Harding told police he was jealous because Pilar’s father had made sexual advances on her.
A day before she died, Wilson hit Pilar so hard that it caused a ‘dark and mushy’ spot to appear on her head.
It caused her to suffer headaches, nausea and diarrhea.
She died and, according to Harding, Wilson wrapped her body in a blanket and put her in the trunk of his car.
His stepfather later testified to seeing the girl’s foot ‘poking’ out of the blanket.
When her father reported her missing, on February 22, a manhunt ensued but her body was never found.
Pilar’s father Marco allowed Harding, her babysitter, to take his daughter with her for two weeks in January 1999. They lived in Fort Lauderdale
For 10 years, the case remained cold and there was no sign of Pilar’s body. In 2009, a tip prompted detectives to reopen the case and they searched the Punta Gorda home where Pilar was last seen (above) but they still did not find a body
Wilson is pictured after his arrest in 2013. He was extradited from his native Kentucky, where he was living, to face the charges in Florida
Police did recover a Winnie the Pooh blanket at the bottom of a drained lake which matched a description of one which belonged to Pilar.
Suddenly in 2009, a group of detectives searched Wilson’s old home again.
They never said what that was but it prompted the confession of Harding, who had by this point been married and had two children of her own.
She told police how Wilson killed the girl and disposed of her body. For testifying against him, she had a charge of manslaughter reduced to accessory after the fact.
In 2013, Wilson was charged with Pilar’s murder. He was convicted earlier this year.
Harding is awaiting sentencing.
Her lawyer Robert Barrar told DailyMail.com on Tuesday he is hopeful she will be given probation but that he will ‘leave it up to the judge’.