By Terrence McCoy
By Scott Fishman
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Allie Conti
By New Times Staff
By Ryan Pfeffer
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Kyle Swenson
For nearly two years, Aventura widow Regina Greenhill expressed nothing but praise for her former aide, Bridget Garcia. Bridget, a certified nursing assistant, had treated the 87-year-old Regina with great care, spending every day of the week cooking her meals, driving her around town, and allowing her to live an independent life. Regina, in turn, pampered her employee and close friend with gifts, including a new car and a small diamond ring.
On October 11, 1999, however, Bridget was fired. A Greenhill family attorney called her on the phone and announced that her services were no longer needed.
There are two explanations for why Bridget was terminated. Bridget says she was dismissed after one of Regina's two adult sons, Daniel, raped her on a sofa bed while Regina napped in an adjacent bedroom. Soon after this alleged assault, Bridget insists, the second son, Joel, ordered his mother to cut all ties with her nurse.
The Greenhills claim that Bridget used her proximity and influence over Regina to extort valuable gifts. Only after they fired her, they allege, did she file bogus assault and then rape charges against Daniel, who lives in Israel and who had been visiting his mother, in part, to ensure Bridget didn't further exploit her. This is the version of events Aventura police chose to believe.
"She had this gravy train going," relays Aventura Police Chief Tom Ribel. "But what she did was abusive, and someone had to stop it and take control of the family assets. They did her a favor by firing her, because eventually we would have had to arrest her."
Ribel says the evidence against Bridget was overwhelming. She didn't file the rape charges with the Aventura police until months after the alleged incident and only after her eviction from a house owned by Regina, who had been letting her live in it rent-free. Bridget convinced Regina to give her at least $1800 to abort Daniel's unborn child, yet Bridget used the cash instead to pay bills. She claimed to have later miscarried, yet her own doctor confirmed she was never pregnant at all, according to the lead police detective. Bridget, who is 50 years old, lost whatever credibility she had left when she flunked a polygraph test arranged by police.
"There was no rape," Chief Ribel says flatly. "I mean, [Bridget] lied about key elements of the whole thing. She flat-out lied, which has been verified by her doctor's statement, verified by the fact that the money wasn't used for an abortion, verified by the fact she waited five and a half months -- when she found out she wasn't going to get her way -- to report this alleged rape, verified by the fact it would be incredibly stupid of the son to rape somebody on the couch in the mother's living room. It stinks. It never happened."
But in truth the evidence against Bridget is far from damning. The doctor who allegedly refuted the nurse's claim of pregnancy tells New Times she was badly misquoted in the police report. One of the most experienced and credible polygraphers in the United States found glaring problems with Bridget's police-sponsored exam. After voluntarily testing Bridget himself, Warren D. Holmes is convinced of her credibility. "My conclusion is absolutely definitive," Holmes declares. "There's no Mickey Mousing around about it: She was assaulted. The story she tells is the truth."
The police never interviewed Daniel Greenhill about the alleged rape. They never bothered to ask Daniel or his brother Joel what -- if not for the catalyst of an assault or rape -- led to Bridget being fired on the day she was. They never inspected the torn and stained uniform and underwear Bridget was wearing on the day she says she was attacked, even though she claims to have retained this clothing. No one asked Regina why she would give Bridget money for an abortion unless she believed Daniel had actually impregnated her. No detective tried to track down another local doctor, the one Bridget claims was hired by Regina to confirm the pregnancy.
One person to whom the police did speak was Michael Snyder, son of Aventura's mayor and the attorney representing Regina Greenhill and her two sons. Snyder was actively involved in the rape investigation. So instrumental was he in aiding police that Ribel considers him to be the most credible expert regarding Bridget's purported villainy. "Maybe their attorney can enlighten you," the police chief says, promoting an interview.
In fact Snyder's involvement in the case extended well beyond the police investigation. Following several instances in which Regina continued her efforts to support Bridget financially, the attorney sought a restraining order to prevent Bridget from so much as calling Regina, her friend and former employer. Bridget filed her own restraining order against Snyder, telling the court in a sworn statement that he was harassing her to keep quiet about the alleged rape and threatened harm when she refused a cash payoff. Snyder denies both the harassment charge and the payoff claim. "She made up the whole thing," he asserts. "It never happened. The whole thing was conjured up. She absolutely perjured herself. It never happened. It was absolutely made up."Although Bridget's appeal for a permanent restraining order was rejected by the court, she now says one of the central reasons she went to police with her fateful rape allegation is that she could no longer endure Snyder's alleged harassment.Michael Snyder staked his claim on turf conquered by his father, Aventura Mayor Arthur Snyder. For nearly six years, until 1981, Arthur Snyder served as mayor of North Miami Beach. After the mayor left office, the younger Snyder became a familiar face at North Miami Beach City Commission meetings as a lobbyist. When Aventura incorporated in 1995 and his dad was elected to lead the new city, Michael Snyder set up his practice in the Aventura Government Center, a building housing city departments and private offices. Both Snyders are fond of saying, "There are three sides to every story." But when it comes to the tale of Regina and Bridget, Michael Snyder is interested in advancing only one side.