Patriot Ledger Special Report: Everyone Failed Rebecca Return to The Patriot Ledger home page Return to Special Reports at The Patriot Ledger
Older Stories


From left, Attorney John Darrell, left, speaks to Michael Riley, second from left, as attorney Michael Bourbeau, center, speaks to Carolyn Riley, second from right and in far right photo, in Brockton Superior Court in Brockton, Mass., March 27, 2007. Carolyn Riley
GREG DERR photos /The Patriot Ledger
From left, Attorney John Darrell, left, speaks to Michael Riley, second from left, as attorney Michael Bourbeau, center, speaks to Carolyn Riley, second from right and in far right photo, in Brockton Superior Court in Brockton, Mass., March 27, 2007.
Rileys unfazed or unaware?
Lawyers paint parents as either callous
or victims of a bad doctor


The Patriot Ledger

BROCKTON

Lisa Buerhaus of Quincy, the paternal grandmother of Carolyn Riley’s oldest daughter, shouted at Michael Riley in Brockton Superior Court yesterday. Michael is accused of molesting Buerhaus’ granddaughter.
GREG DERR/The Patriot Ledger
Lisa Buerhaus of Quincy, the paternal grandmother of Carolyn Riley’s oldest daughter, shouted at Michael Riley in Brockton Superior Court Tuesday, March 27, 2007. Michael is accused of molesting Buerhaus’ granddaughter.

COURT CONFRONTATION
Grandmother says Rileys are Satan worshippers

Michael Riley accused
of molesting Quincy
woman’s granddaughter

Patriot Ledger staff

The paternal grandmother of Carolyn Riley’s oldest daughter confronted Carolyn and Michael Riley on their way out of court and then pleaded for people to join her in a protest of the Department of Social Services at the State House next month.

In a separate case due to go to trial in May, Michael Riley is accused of sexually assaulting the girl in 2005, when she was 13. The girl was adopted when she was a toddler but visited her birth mother, Carolyn Riley. The alleged assault took place during one of those visits.

Carolyn, who gave birth to the girl during an earlier relationship, had voluntarily surrendered her parental rights to the child shortly before she and Michael Riley were married in 1994, but court papers state it was an open adoption. The girl’s biological father is a registered sex offender in Maine and was due to be released from prison this month after serving time for sexual abuse of a minor.

The grandmother, Lisa Buerhaus of Quincy, shouted at Michael Riley as he was led out of a courtroom at Brockton Superior Court yesterday.

Court personnel led her away from the Rileys and she later spoke with photographers outside the courthouse.

“He molested my granddaughter, his stepdaughter,” Buerhaus said.

She accused the couple of being Satan worshippers.

“They used their kids in Satanic rituals, all the time,” the woman said. “I asked Michael Riley myself ..., ‘Michael, do you worship Satan?’ He said, ‘Yes, I do.’”

Buerhaus had previously told The Patriot Ledger that she was horrified to learn of 4-year-old Rebecca Riley’s death, and learned at the same time that Michael was facing charges relating to her granddaughter.

“Rebecca Jean Riley lost her battle with the insanity that ruled her life,” she said yesterday. “She shouldn’t have had to do battle all alone.”

The woman said she would wage a protest against the Department of Social Services in front of the State House on April 11, which would have been Rebecca’s fifth birthday.

“DSS, MassHealth, they all contributed to this kid’s death, they all contributed,” she said.

As the trial of Michael and Carolyn Riley moved to a higher court, prosecutors and defense lawyers staked out the territory they will try to claim in the case of the two parents charged with the first-degree murder of their daughter, Rebecca.

Plymouth County First Assistant District Attorney Frank Middleton described Michael as a father who seemed barely fazed by his daughter’s death, according to the emergency workers who found her dead on the couple’s bedroom floor in Hull on Dec. 13, 2006.

He described parents who pushed hard for psychiatric diagnoses for the girl in hopes that she would qualify for $1,200 monthly disability benefits that their other children were receiving.

Defense lawyers continued to attack Dr. Kayoko Kifuji, the Tufts-New England Medical Center psychiatrist who diagnosed Rebecca with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and then bipolar disorder when she was 2, prescribing powerful medications that were eventually blamed in her death. Prosecutors charge the Rileys intentionally overdosed her with prescription medication.

Kifuji agreed to a suspension of her medical license while regulators investigate the matter; she has not been charged.

John Darrell, the lawyer for Michael Riley, targeted James McGonnell, half-brother of Carolyn Riley, whose statements to police about the couple’s alleged indifference to Rebecca’s worsening condition were a significant part of the arrest warrant used to charge the couple with murder.

“Mr. McGonnell just got out of rehab,” and had been a longtime addict, Darrell said.

Carolyn and Michael Riley each quietly said “not guilty” when asked by Brockton Superior Court Judge Carol Ball how they pleaded to charges of first-degree murder, handed up by a Plymouth County grand jury on Friday. The couple had previously been arraigned in Hingham District Court.

The indictment moves the case to Superior Court, where felony murder trials are held.

Ball ordered that the pair continued to be held without bail, but recommended that Carolyn be moved out of MCI-Framingham, which she called a “draconian” facility.

In describing the case to the judge, Middleton elaborated on some of the evidence presented to the grand jury.

He said that emergency workers who responded to Michael Riley’s 911 call noticed no sadness or concern from him for his dead 4-year-old daughter.

Middleton said that Riley told arriving paramedics, “‘You guys can slow down, she’s already gone.’

“He acted like the whole thing was a big inconvenience. ... He showed no sadness,” Middleton said.

Middleton said Carolyn Riley’s aunt, whom he did not name, testified before the grand jury that when Rebecca was 2, Carolyn commented that she was the only one of the couple’s three children not receiving Social Security insurance benefits for disabled children.

Middleton said Kifuji first diagnosed Rebecca with ADHD in August 2004, prescribing clonodine, a drug approved to treat blood pressure in adults and sometimes prescribed for children for its sedative effects. On Oct. 27 of that year, Michael Riley first applied to the Social Security Administration for benefits for Rebecca. On March 11, 2005, doctors for the agency examined Rebecca, Middleton said.

On April 8, 2005, the agency notified the Rileys that Rebecca did not qualify for disability benefits. Middleton said doctors for the agency found no signs of ADHD.

Middleton said that Carolyn Riley brought Rebecca back to Kifuji on May 3 2005, saying “she’s driving me crazy” and that the girl was moody and aggressive. Kifuji gave her the additional diagnosis of bipolar disorder.

Social Security doctors again examined Rebecca, and again determined she didn’t meet disability criteria. Middleton said the family then appealed the case before an administrative court judge. A Social Security spokesman said that the administrative judge’s review usually comes after an initial appeal through the agency.

Middleton said that Kifuji was never told that doctors reviewing Rebecca for Social Security determined she was not ill enough to receive disability benefits.

But in the course of a typical disability determination, the psychiatrist most likely would have known that the evaluation was taking place. Stephen Richardson, a spokesman for Social Security, said doctors treating disability applicants are typically asked by the agency to submit medical records for their patients.

Typically, he said, the agency requests medical records and would make requests of the applicants’ doctors. Social Security’s own doctors will examine patients if they aren’t satisfied by the medical record that the patient is sufficiently disabled.

“It’s a painstaking process,” Richardson said. “If our doctors feel there’s not enough evidence to make the call, we have (applicants) in for an examination of our own.”

Richardson said about 17,000 children in Massachusetts receive benefits.

Carolyn’s attorney, Michael Bourbeau, said the Rileys were victims of a doctor who prescribed adult drugs for children and of an overzealous prosecution.

“It’s Dr. Kifuji who is the cause of any overdose, if that’s what it was,” Bourbeau said.

Saying that the Rileys had been occasionally homeless and did not work, he added, “It seems that the commonwealth here, with its great resources, have gone after the least common denominator.”

The Rileys had two other children, a boy, now 12, and a 6-year-old girl, who were placed in foster care after Rebecca’s death.

Carolyn’s mother, Valerie Berio, said she and other relatives were recently allowed to visit with the children for the first time, celebrating the boy’s birthday.

She said that Michael Riley had written a letter to the boy which was read to him by a social worker. She said Carolyn was spending much of her time in prison reading romance and Stephen King horror novels.

Julie Jette may be reached at jjette@ledger.com.