Man convicted of killing Punta Gorda toddler sentenced to life

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A man found guilty of beating and killing a toddler was sentenced to life in prison on Monday.

Keith Wilson, 46, was convicted on Oct. 18 of second-degree murder in the 1999 killing of 3-year-old Pilar Rodriguez. Her body was never found.

Charlotte County Judge George Richards had harsh words for Wilson right before he sentenced him to life in prison, “This girl was born into a hard life. Her mother wasn’t present and her father, who obviously loved her very much but struggled to support her financially then she ends up with Mr. Wilson who made that child feel so much better by torturing her then killing her.”

MORE: Man convicted of killing toddler in Punta Gorda cold case

Wilson was arrested in 2013 after new evidence resurfaced against him. He disputed witness testimonies multiple times while on the stand.

Melissa Harding-Jones, Pilar’s babysitter testified Wilson told her he put her body in a garbage bag and buried her. She admitted to initially lying to police, but hoped her testimony would result in a lighter sentence. She faces up to 30 years in prison.

A family member of Keith Wilson, Debbie Wilson, said “Melissa cooper is the only one that know what happened to that baby and I think, I think she’s still alive. I don’t think she’s dead. I don’t care what they say.”

But a jury disagreed and convicted wilson of second-degree murder in October.

He wants to communicate to the court how upset he is because he doesn’t know where she is and how upset he is about her loss.

Assistant State Attorney Dan Feinberg spoke on behalf of pilar’s father because he was too emotional to speak for himself, during victim impact statements.

Feinberg said, “this was a horrible act that a young child that was abused, tortured and killed and we believe the jury reached the right verdict and the court sentenced the defendant appropriately.”

MORE: Babysitter testifies in Charlotte County child murder trial

But the little girl’s family – still searching for closure.

“There will never be a full conclusion not until the body is found.” said Feinberg.

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