GREG DERR photos/The Patriot Ledger
Carolyn and Michael Riley appeared in court in Hingham March 6, 2007. Michael Riley’s attorney, John Darrell, is in the foreground.
Girl’s pill numbers disputed
The prescriptions Carolyn Riley gave 4-year-old
were very close to allowed amount, defense says
The Patriot Ledger
HINGHAM - Lawyers for a couple accused of killing their young daughter by deliberately overdosing her with a prescription drug are questioning the math of prosecutors in an attempt to undermine the case.
Lawyers for Carolyn and Michael Riley point to prescription records supplied by prosecutors and argue that those records show the Rileys did not have substantially more medication than had been prescribed for their 4-year-old daughter, Rebecca, who was found dead in their Hull home in December.
Boston lawyer Michael Bourbeau said that assuming Rebecca was actually given the number of pills prescribed for her between Aug. 16 and her death on Dec. 13, she was not being overdosed.
But the lead prosecutor in the case, Plymouth County First Assistant District Attorney Frank Middleton, said Carolyn Riley received 94 more clonidine pills than she was supposed to during that four-month period.
Middleton also said in a hearing before Judge Patrick Hurley yesterday that prosecutors looked at nearly a year’s worth of prescriptions filled for Rebecca Riley prior to her death, and found the Rileys had been given about 200 pills more than the child’s recommended dose.
The Rileys - Carolyn, 32, and Michael, 34 - are charged with murdering their daughter by giving her too much clonidine, an adult drug prescribed by some doctors for children as a sedative.
Rebecca had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder when she was 21/2.
A grand jury is also meeting to consider evidence against the couple.
Carolyn and Michael Riley appeared in court yesterday, Michael wearing a blue shirt and plum-colored tie and white sneakers, Carolyn in a blue hooded sweatshirt. The two sat several feet from each other on the same bench and did not look at one another during the hearing.
The arrest affidavit for the couple includes reports of several occasions on which Carolyn Riley sought more clonodine for Rebecca, telling the psychiatrist treating Rebecca that her pills were lost or damaged.
Carolyn Riley received 530 clonidine pills between Aug. 16 and Dec. 13, the day Rebecca died, Bourbeau said. He said that means that on average, Carolyn Riley would have given Rebecca just over four clonidine pills per day - the maximum amount Carolyn Riley said she was authorized to give Rebecca by the girl’s psychiatrist, Dr. Kayoko Kifuji.
Bourbeau also said that since most of Rebecca’s dosages were given as half of a 0.1 milligram pill, it was possible that half of the pill would break open and be thrown away after Carolyn Riley split it.
In the Rileys’ arrest warrant, Kifuji vehemently denied a statement by Carolyn Riley that she had told the mother Rebecca could be given an extra half-pill if she wasn’t sleeping. Kifuji told investigators the girl was only to be given 3 1/2 pills a day.
“We’re talking 200 (extra) pills went into this little girl’s system in the year leading up to her death,” Middleton said in court. “If anything the arrest warrant was a conservative number.”
Middleton said prosecutors believe that from the time Rebecca Riley was diagnosed, the Rileys may have gotten as many as 300 pills above her recommended dose.
Bourbeau said that he is seeking testimony Kifuji gave at a Department of Social Services hearing in January that he believes may provide evidence that the Rileys did not intentionally overdose Rebecca.
He said he also plans to search a self-storage unit rented by the Rileys when they moved in with Carolyn Riley’s mother in Weymouth after Rebecca’s death. Police executed a search warrant on the storage unit Saturday. Bourbeau said he believes there could be pills there that were not found by police.
If pills are found that were prescribed to Rebecca but never given to her, that would change the equation in terms of how many pills she could have taken.
Bourbeau and Michael Riley’s attorney, John Darrell, also criticized prosecutors who they said were advancing a theory that the Rileys, who were on public assistance, deliberately killed Rebecca because she didn’t generate enough Social Security money.
“It is the most absurd, idiotic theory I have ever heard in my life,” Darrell said. “I think the district attorney is just reaching for a theory here.”
Darrell said he understood that potential witnesses in the case had been questioned about how much money the family received for Rebecca’s support.
“They seem to be asserting the Rileys made some sort of financial calculation here,” he said.
The Rileys have been held without bail since they were arraigned on Feb. 6. Yesterday, Bourbeau and Darrell asked Hurley to release the couple on their own recognizance, but Hurley took no action on the request.
Another hearing is scheduled for March 26.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.