Man accused of Punta Gorda child murder takes stand

Keith Wilson

PUNTA GORDA, Fla. A man accused of killing a 3-year-old girl in Punta Gorda and dumping her body took the stand in his own defense Tuesday.

Keith Wilson is accused of the 1999 murder of Pilar Rodriguez, whose body was never found. Wilson was arrested in 2013 in Kentucky after new evidence implicated him in Pilar’s death.

MORE: New details unveiled during Charlotte County murder trial

Wilson, then the boyfriend of the girl’s babysitter, said he last saw the girl in a Punta Gorda apartment on Feb. 1, but when he returned from work Feb. 2, she was gone.

The babysitter, Melissa Harding-Jones, looked confused and told him Pilar was with her dad, Wilson testified.

Wilson said he wasn’t even aware that Pilar was missing until he got a call from the police department in Hollywood, Florida, where the girl lived.

MORE: Babysitter testifies in Charlotte County child murder trial

Harding-Jones, who was arrested and accused of being an accessory to the murder, testified earlier in the trial that Wilson told her he put the girl’s body in a garbage bag and buried it.

She admitted that she lied to police about what happened to the girl and that she’s hoping for a lighter sentence in exchange for her testimony.

Closing arguments are scheduled to begin Wednesday.