The Widow and the Nurse

Regina Greenhill is a wealthy Jewish widow. A stroke victim, she lives alone in a condominium tower, just across a parking lot from Aventura Mall. Bridget Garcia is a working-class black native of the U.S. Virgin Islands. For nearly two years, Bridget worked as Regina's private nurse, spending up to 16 hours per day cooking Regina's meals, taking her grocery shopping, and escorting her to the library for the books Regina loves to read in bed.

Theirs was far more than an employer-employee relationship. The two women grew so close that Regina began surprising her aide with gifts, including a modest diamond ring and, as a birthday present, a not-so-modest Infiniti automobile. She bought a house and allowed Bridget to live in it rent-free. Although the two women spent every day of the year together, Regina still telephoned Bridget before retiring each night, talking for 15 minutes or so until she removed her hearing aids and rolled over to sleep. They regularly spoke of their love for each other.

From the perspective of Regina's two adult sons, the women were too close. Bridget received the car and the free lodging and the jewelry and who knows what else, they say, by preying on Regina's loneliness and mental frailty.

"There's no doubt there was a strong bond between them," asserts Daniel Greenhill. "But the strong bond was part of Bridget's tactics of gaining control over my mother, to manipulate and take advantage of my mother's weakness recovering from a stroke and other such things. She was taking very, very good care of her and being supportive and even saying she loved her -- but it was all a damned trick."

Daniel and his brother, Joel, fired Bridget this past October. What followed was a series of accusations and counteraccusations that confounded an already complex family melodrama. While the Greenhill sons allege Bridget fleeced their elderly mother, Bridget leveled an even more explosive charge: One of the sons, Daniel, raped and impregnated her in his mother's living room as Regina napped in an adjoining bedroom.

The Aventura police investigated both charges, making no arrest. Tom Ribel, police chief of the small, affluent city, says Bridget's rape account lacked credibility. For one thing she didn't file the charge until more than five months after the alleged incident, after she'd been evicted from her free housing. And according to the police investigation, Bridget's doctor verified that her patient had never been pregnant. Bridget also failed a lie detector test conducted at the request of the rape case's lead detective.

It's unusual to give a polygraph test to the supposed victim, but Chief Ribel clarifies that, as far as his department was concerned, Bridget was a suspect, not a victim. "The lady is a fraud," he declares flatly. "She's taking advantage of elderly people and tapping into their assets. We wanted very much to arrest her for extorting money from [Regina]. She was bleeding assets off the estate."Ribel, it appears, was too quick to condemn the nurse. New Times has documented egregious flaws in the Aventura Police Department's investigation. The doctor who supposedly refuted Bridget's pregnancy claim insists she did no such thing. In fact the doctor believes her patient was indeed raped. One of the foremost lie detector experts in the United States found glaring problems in the police polygraph test. And when this highly respected professional conducted his own polygraph test of Bridget's credibility, he came up with radically different results.

The police never formally interviewed Daniel Greenhill as a suspect in the rape, though Bridget says she told them she could describe his genitals. The police never inspected the torn and stained uniform and underwear Bridget was wearing on the day she says she was attacked, though she still has this clothing. They never tracked down the doctor Bridget claims confirmed her pregnancy.

Furthermore the police never interviewed Regina Greenhill about the alleged rape outside the presence of the attorney who also represents both her sons. This attorney, Michael Snyder, maintained an active presence throughout the rape investigation, regularly faxing material to the police department. So strong was the lawyer's involvement that Bridget sought a restraining order against him, telling the court he was badgering her to accept a payoff to keep her mouth shut. Snyder later secured his own restraining order -- against Bridget. Snyder happens to be the son of Aventura mayor Arthur Snyder.

If Bridget Garcia was offered a payoff, she never took it. Even today, while Regina openly refers to her former nurse as a liar, Bridget remains unwavering in her claim: She was raped. And Daniel Greenhill was the one who raped her.The Aventura city seal is remarkably true to life. It features a sailboat gliding past one of the dozens of bland concrete condominium high-rises that crowd the skyline. Regina Greenhill lives on the tenth floor of one of these condos, the Bonavida. It is a secure and well-maintained building located on a street where elderly men take afternoon strolls wearing white pants and floppy terry-cloth hats. The Bonavida's lobby is all marble and mirrors. A shuffleboard court waits alongside the outdoor pool. The elevators glide smoothly to the tenth floor.

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Robert Andrew Powell