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  1. #1

    FL - Pilar Rodriguez, 3, Hollywood, 30 Jan 1999 *Arrest*

    4-year-old girl vanished five years ago from Punta Gorda
    Pilar Rodriguez should be a 9-year-old girl going to school and singing along to Jessica Simpson's songs.
    Maybe she is.
    But probably not.
    Pilar vanished in February 1999 from the Trail Apartments in Punta Gorda. Pilar was only 4 years old when her baby sitter Melissa Cooper took her to Punta Gorda on Jan. 31, 1999 so Cooper could see her boyfriend, then 27-year-old truck driver Keith Wilson.


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2003


    Case alleging Pilar's death dismissed
    eith Wilson cleared from civil suit burden

    PUNTA GORDA -- Keith Alan Wilson is free and clear of the wrongful death lawsuit that hung over his head for the last year.

    A suit was dismissed that alleged Wilson inflicted injuries to little 4-year-old Pilar Rodriguez of Hollywood, Fla., which caused her death. Pilar's father, Marco Rodriguez, had the original suit filed on Oct. 18, 1999. Pilar has been missing since February 1999.

    Judge Sherra Winesett dismissed the suit after Rodriguez did not get another attorney or come forward to represent himself following Miami attorney Ellis Rubin's withdraw from the case last month.

    Rubin removed himself from the case after telling Winesett that Rodriguez no longer wanted Melissa Cooper involved in the case. Cooper was Pilar's baby sitter, who brought the child with her on a visit to see Wilson when he lived in Punta Gorda.

    Rubin was prepared to argue that Cooper saw Wilson allegedly beat Pilar on numerous occasions, including hitting the child so hard she struck her head on the wall and floor. The suit alleged Pilar's health condition deteriorated over time to where she eventually turned blue and began convulsing, before becoming unresponsive.

    The suit claimed that Cooper saw Wilson putting Pilar's body in a black trash bag and returning 90 minutes later without it.

    It was on Sept. 29 that Rubin went before Winesett, telling her that Rodriguez instructed him he no longer wanted Cooper involved, citing a conflict of interest. Rubin had previously represented Cooper in a separate matter, but had obtained signed conflict of interest waivers from both Cooper and Rodriguez before proceeding with the suit. Rubin said Rodriguez offered no reason for his change of opinion.

    Rubin told Winesett that he did not have a case without Cooper's testimony and asked to withdraw from the case. In the order approving his withdraw, Winesett wrote the case would be dismissed if a new attorney was not appointed or if Rodriguez did not show up for an Oct. 30 docket sounding hearing. The date passed Monday without any new representation in the case.

    Sullivan could not be reached for comment Wednesday, but had previously said Wilson was ready to confront the suit's allegations head-on because the accusation had been "hanging over his head."

    In addition to the suit, Wilson has had to deal with being labeled as a suspect in the Charlotte County Sheriff's criminal investigation of Pilar's disappearance. No charges have ever been filed in connection with the case.

    The suit alleges that Wilson told investigators that Rodriguez showed up and retrieved his daughter, which initially caused Rodriguez to be investigated thoroughly.

    A massive search was conducted in South Punta Gorda Heights when Pilar's disappearance was first reported, but her body was never found. Investigators later drained Preacher's Lake in Charlotte County in search of evidence with the same negative results.

    Staff Writer


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Associated Press

    PUNTA GORDA -- There is a chance a missing 4-year-old girl last seen three weeks ago with her baby sitter is still alive, investigators searching for the girl said Friday.

    ''We hope she's alive. We have no indication that she isn't at this point,'' said Charlotte County Sheriff's Col. John Davenport. ''We're going with the assumption that she is alive, possibly abducted.''

    More than 50 law enforcement officers helped Friday in the search for Pilar Rodriguez, who was last seen with 22-year-old baby sitter Melissa Cooper.

    Ms. Cooper told investigators Pilar was the victim of a ''totally senseless'' crime while she and her boyfriend were in Punta Gorda, about 75 miles south of Tampa.

    But the baby sitter's statement did not convince investigators that the girl is dead, Davenport said.

    Police received several leads after news coverage of the girl's disappearance, sheriff's spokesman Chuck Ellis said.

    ''There have been some calls saying they've seen the little girl alive,'' Ellis said. He said the tipsters called after seeing Pilar's photograph, but none of the tips had been confirmed.

    Ms. Cooper's boyfriend, trucker Keith Allen Wilson, said he hopes the girl is found.

    ''I want to help them in any way,'' Wilson said. ''But right now they're only looking in one place -- me. And I don't know anything.

    ''The police questioned me three times and used a warrant to search my truck,'' Wilson said.

    Investigators interviewed Ms. Cooper and the girl's father, 29-year-old Marco Rodriguez, but declined to discuss any possible suspects.

    Wilson, a Kentucky native who recently moved to Punta Gorda, said that on Feb. 7 he found a nearly unconscious Ms. Cooper alone in a room they were sharing at the Trail Apartments.

    ''After work I went over to the apartment and found Melissa all groggy and sick,'' said Wilson, who works for a Punta Gorda trucking company. ''I asked Melissa, 'Where is the girl?' And she said, 'Her Dad came and got her.'''

    Wilson said he thought that meant the child was in safe hands.

    When Rodriguez, of Hollywood, called police to report his daughter missing Monday, he made no mention of ever picking up the child. He said Ms. Cooper was supposed to return with the child on Feb. 14 and had not.

    Pilar was supposed to be on a two-week vacation with Ms. Cooper, a diabetic in need of frequent insulin injections. Police found Ms. Cooper visiting relatives in Wisconsin.

    She told detectives in Charlotte County where they might find Pilar's body, said Caledonia, Wis., Police Chief Jeffrey Meier.

    The search started in the woods near the Trail Apartments in south Punta Gorda on Wednesday and continued by air and on the ground, with the assistance of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the FBI.

    Searchers had found no sign of Pilar as of Friday afternoon.

    ''At this time, we have no indication that the child has crossed state lines,'' said FBI special agent Dick Keith.

    On Thursday, Rodriguez gave no explanation as to why he waited eight days to report his daughter missing.

    ''I need to do something to help find her -- I can't do nothing,'' Rodriguez said.

    The baby sitter flew back to Florida voluntarily Thursday in the company of investigators. Detectives escorted her back to the Punta Gorda apartment and took her testimony.

    The girl's father often asked Ms. Cooper to baby-sit while he went out with Ms. Cooper's mother, 42-year-old Deborah Cooper, with whom Rodriguez shared an apartment.

    Rodriguez also denied having anything to do with his daughter's disappearance.

    Pilar lives with her father, who has been arrested in the past for charges including battery and driving under the influence. Pilar's mother, 30-year-old Pamela Rodriguez, lives in Dayton, Ohio.

    The girl's baby sitter met Wilson about a year ago while she was working at an Orangeville, Ky., McDonald's restaurant. Driver's license records show Wilson had a post office box in Olympia, Ky., at least between March 1992 and July 1997.

    Wilson said Ms. Cooper came with Pilar from Hollywood to Punta Gorda three times, and they often stayed at the weekly rental apartments.

    ''On at least two visits I noticed Pilar had bruises on her arms and back,'' Wilson said.


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2003

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Associated Press

    PUNTA GORDA -- Investigators searched by air and on the ground Thursday for a missing 4-year-old girl who vanished while in the care of her baby sitter, but they believe Pilar Rodriguez is dead.

    The child was supposed to be on a two-week vacation with Melissa Cooper, 22. After Marco Rodriguez of Hollywood reported his daughter missing on Monday, police found Cooper visiting relatives in Wisconsin.

    She told investigators Pilar had been the victim of a ''totally senseless'' crime while the two were in Punta Gorda, about 75 miles south of Tampa.

    Cooper -- who is not a suspect -- told detectives in Charlotte County where they might find Pilar's body, said Caledonia, Wis., Police Chief Jeffrey Meier.

    The search started in the woods near the Trail Apartments in south Punta Gorda on Wednesday. But no corpse had been located by early Thursday afternoon, according to Charlotte County sheriff's spokesman Chuck Ellis.

    ''We're in the process of duplicating 400 to 500 fliers to be passed out in Punta Gorda, Hollywood, and up in Wisconsin,'' he said.

    ''Canine and aerial searches will be going on today as well as detectives doing leg work following up leads.''

    Rodriguez, 29, went to Charlotte County on Wednesday. He told detectives Ms. Cooper had permission to take Pilar on vacation, but she should have returned by Valentine's Day.

    Ellis was not able to explain the time lapse, saying only that much of what Rodriguez told Charlotte investigators was not being released.


  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Native Texan, In Germany

    Pilar Rodriguez

    Case Type: Endangered Missing
    DOB: Feb 5, 1995
    Sex: Female
    Missing Date: Jan 30, 1999
    Race: White/Hisp
    Age Now: 10
    Height: 3'0" (91 cm)
    Weight: 35 lbs (16 kg)
    Hair Color: Black
    Eye Color: Brown
    Missing City: HOLLYWOOD
    Missing State : FL
    Missing Country: United States

    Case Number: NCMC860724
    Circumstances: Pilar's photo is shown age-progressed to 9 years. She was last seen in the company of a female babysitter. The babysitter has been located in Wisconsin but the child is still missing. Pilar has a red birthmark on her forehead, between her eyebrows.

    National Center for Missing & Exploited Children
    1-800-843-5678 (1-800-THE-LOST)

    NCMEC profile

    Printable poster

    Photo at age 3

    Age progressed to 9 years

    With love and HOPE, Lanie

  7. #7
    What an odd case. Can't seem to find much info. I am guessing that the babysitter was arrested. I can't believe that there are really no details about this case. Do they suspect she was murdered or sold to someone else? So many possibilities.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    I have some more info about Pilar and some better photographs here. (I don't know why the NCMEC uses that one photograph; there are better ones available.)

    Sadly, six years after the fact NO ONE has served a single day in prison for Pilar's disappearance. The case is a puzzling one -- I've seen people brought up on murder charges with less evidence than this, yet prosecutors have not acted. And it's strange that they've supposedly found a "trace of Pilar's remains" yet she's still listed as missing.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2005

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    It's strange that they said they found unspecified biological evidence that they believed was Pilar's remains but now say there is a chance she is still alive. I wonder if a DNA test could be done on the trace of evidence, but even if it matched I guess it could still be that the trace biological evidence was the result of an injury not death.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Wenonah, NJ

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Fort Myers, FL

    FL - Pilar Rodriguez (3 yo) Missing since 1999

    Breaking news today. LE searching property related to the babysitter's boyfriend. Cadaver dogs being utilized.


    CHARLOTTE COUNTY: The Charlotte County Sheriff's Office announced they are searching a property in Punta Gorda related to missing 3-year-old Pilar Rodriguez, who was last seen in early 1999.

    Sheriff Bill Cameron says new information leads them to believe evidence related to the crime may be located at 5052 Duncan Road. The current residents and owners are not the subject of the search.

    Pilar Rodriguez was last seen in January 1999 when her babysitter, Melissa Cooper, brought her to Florida for vacation. Pilar was never seen again.

    More details at the link.

    : (
    "We wish to find the truth, no matter where it lies. But to find the truth we need imagination and skepticism both. We will not be afraid to speculate, but we will be careful to distinguish speculation from fact." Carl Sagan

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Cape Coral FL

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth. Buddha
    One of our own, RiverRat, is on the scene.

    I just got off the phone with her. She is at the scene as they are removing dirt.

    Here is the Readers Digest version.

    Babysitter had permission to have the 3 year old in her custody. Babysitter took Pilar to her redneck boyfriend's house.

    There apparently was partying going on and then Pilar was gone.

    The babysitter and her boyfriend each pointed the finger at the other one saying the other was the last one to be seen with Pilar.

    Now, they are digging at the boyfriend's grandmother's house.

    RiverRat will be officially checking in later on. She has followed this case for 11 years and knows the family well.

    Hat's off to our RiverRat for caring and doing so much.

    Thank you for going into the Websleuths archives. I would suggest everyone read Pilar's story and how it was told when it first happened.
    Last edited by Tricia; 11-03-2009 at 04:50 PM.
    Websleuths is TEMPORARILY accepting donations.

    to visit our GoFundMe page


  15. #15
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth. Buddha
    Bumping up. Don't want anyone to miss this information.

    You know what is so tragic? We have so many missing person's threads that the lesser active ones get pushed to the bottom.

    When is this madness going to end?
    Websleuths is TEMPORARILY accepting donations.

    to visit our GoFundMe page


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