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Out of jail, headed for a shelter

Rebecca Riley's mother expected to await trial in local homeless shelter

BROCKTON - Carolyn Riley will be out of jail while she awaits trial on charges that she fatally overdosed her 4-year-old daughter, Rebecca, and she will probably be living in a homeless shelter south of Boston.

Plymouth Superior Court Judge Charles Hely granted Riley’s pretrial release at a bail hearing on Thursday. She will be out of jail as soon as a temporary residence is approved by Hely.

Her attorney, Michael Bourbeau, told Hely that Riley is already trying to find a shelter where she can stay. How soon her release would go in effect was not clear.

Hely ordered Riley released on her own recognizance, with no bail. She will be on probation and must attend all court sessions. She and her husband, Michael, are scheduled to go on trial Jan. 22.

The Rileys are charged with second-degree murder for allegedly killing Rebecca with intentional overdoses of clonidine and other powerful drugs she had been prescribed for attention deficit disorder, hyperactivity and bipolar disorder.

The Rileys lived in Hull at the time. The two older Riley children are in foster care.

Michael Riley was at court with Carolyn on Thursday, but he waived his bail hearing. He is not eligible for bail because he is serving a 2½-year sentence in the Norfolk County jail for an unrelated 2007 conviction, for giving pornography to a minor.

Carolyn Riley showed little expression after Hely’s ruling. She will stay in jail until Hely gives his final approval.

Bourbeau said Riley might move into a Boston shelter, but Hely said he would prefer that she stay in Plymouth County or Norfolk County. Riley cannot stay with her mother, Valerie Berio of Weymouth, because Berio lives in a Section 8 federally subsidized home, and Riley’s charges would violate state housing rules.

Berio attended the Thursday hearing but declined to comment on her daughter’s release. Bourbeau and Plymouth County prosecutor Frank Middleton are under a gag order, so they could not comment on Hely’s decision.

Middleton argued that Riley should not be freed on bail. He said she is a flight risk because she faces a life sentence if convicted, and he stressed her role in what he called Rebecca’s “excruciating, slow death” from the overdoses.

Bourbeau said Riley is not a flight risk because all her family contacts are in this area. He said it would be “unjust” to keep her locked up until the trial, after she has spent 20 months in jail without bail.

“Bail would be granted if she was charged with first-degree murder,” Bourbeau said. “She’s ready to go to trial to prove her innocence.”

In a September court motion, Riley asserted that Rebecca died from pneumonia, not an overdose. She asked the court to order a new examination of tissue samples by a forensic pathologist. Hely has yet to rule on that motion.

Rebecca Riley’s clonidine and other drugs were prescribed by Dr. Kayoko Kifuji, a psychiatrist formerly at Tufts-New England Medical Center.

Kifuji, who has not been charged, voluntarily surrendered her medical license in 2007 while the case is reviewed by state regulators.

Lane Lambert may be reached at