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Mother's Kidnap Tale Collapses With Discovery of Girl's Grave

October 29, 1994|From Associated Press

RIVIERA BEACH, Fla. — In one hand, Pauline Zile clutched a stuffed animal. With the other, she wiped the tears streaming from her red, swollen eyes.

Looking into the TV camera, she made a near-hysterical plea for the return of her 7-year-old daughter, claiming Christina Holt had been abducted from a restroom at a flea market.

One problem: The woman kept referring to her daughter in the past tense.

Days later, police announced that Pauline Zile had concocted the abduction tale to cover up her daughter's beating death more than a month earlier at the hands of the girl's stepfather.

The grammatical slip was just one of the inconsistencies investigators uncovered in the death of the second-grader, whose body was found Friday in a shallow grave behind a convenience store in Tequesta, Fla.

"If you think your daughter's just been missing for a few hours, you're not going to be talking about her, every line, in the past tense," said Jim Leljedal, a spokesman for the Broward County sheriff.

The girl's stepfather, Walter John Zile, 32, was jailed without bail Thursday on charges of murder as well as aggravated child abuse, for two previous beatings the child allegedly suffered. He led police to the body.

John Zile confessed after learning his wife had talked about the death of her child, according to a police affidavit released Friday.

Investigators believe Pauline Zile, 24, witnessed but did not participate in the beating. No charges were brought against her.

The tale began last weekend with Pauline Zile's gripping, detailed account of her daughter's purported abduction. She said she and Christina had wanted some special mother-daughter time, so they drove from their motel apartment in Riviera Beach to the Swap Shop flea market in Ft. Lauderdale last Saturday.

When they arrived, they immediately looked for the nearest restroom. Pauline Zile said she went into a stall and heard someone go into the stall next to her and assumed it was Christina. She told investigators she was talking to the girl and realized something was wrong when Christina didn't respond.

Now, investigators say, it was all a well-rehearsed performance.

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