The Murder of Pilar Rodriguez

This afternoon Melissa Harding-Jones, 41, was sentenced to 12 years of probation on a charge of Accessory After the Fact for her role in the 1999 murder of 4 year old Pilar Rodriguez, the child she was babysitting in Punta Gorda. She was adjudicated guilty and is now a convicted felon.

Harding-Jones testified against Keith Wilson at his trial as part of her plea agreement. She was the only eyewitness to the events leading up to Pilar’s death. Wilson had been dating Harding-Jones and punched Pilar in the head leading to her death while the two were staying with him. Wilson was sentenced to life in prison in December 2017 for Second Degree Murder.

Pilar’s body has never been recovered. Her disappearance was a cold case until a new witness came forward in 2009. At that time Harding-Jones was interviewed by law enforcement again and provided additional information that allowed the case to go forward.

At sentencing, the Honorable Judge George Richards referenced the abuse Harding-Jones suffered at the hands of Wilson as partial reasoning for her sentence of probation. He also mentioned that without her testimony Wilson would not have been able to be prosecuted. As part of her probation, Harding-Jones must speak to groups that deal with domestic violence to help educate others about what she experienced. She must also undergo a mental health evaluation and proceed with any treatment mandated.

Assistant State Attorney Dan Feinberg of our Homicide Unit and Assistant State Attorney Cynthia Rebholz-Rubin handled the cases.

Samantha Syoen
Communications Director
State Attorney’s Office