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No 1st degree murder charge for tot’s parents

Parents of dead Hull girl get murder charges reduced

A Superior Court judge on Friday reduced the first-degree murder charge against Michael and Carolyn Riley, parents charged with killing their four-year-old daughter, Rebecca, in Hull last December.

The Patriot Ledger

BROCKTON - In a surprising move, a Superior Court judge has reduced the charges against Michael and Carolyn Riley, parents charged with killing their 4-year-old daughter, Rebecca, in Hull last December.

Instead of first-degree murder, which carries the possibility of life in prison without parole, the Rileys will face second-degree murder charges. A conviction for second-degree murder allows the possibility of parole after 15 years.

John Darrell, Michael Riley’s attorney, and Michael Bourbeau, Carolyn Riley’s attorney, had previously filed motions to dismiss the charges against them. Judge John P. O’Connor Jr. issued his ruling reducing the charge on Friday.

Carolyn and Michael Riley were initially charged with first-degree murder in Rebecca’s death in Hingham District Court in February, and then were indicted on the charge by a Plymouth County grand jury in March.

After reviewing the grand jury testimony, O’Connor said that while the evidence presented was enough to return an indictment on the Rileys, “it did not meet the threshold for indictments charging more than second-degree murder.”

“Nowhere in all the testimony and in all the exhibits ...was there any inference that the death of Rebecca was premeditated,” O’Connor wrote.

Rebecca and her three siblings had all been diagnosed with psychiatric and behavioral disorders and were being treated with multiple medications.

Plymouth County First Assistant District Attorney Frank Middleton has argued that Carolyn and Michael Riley intentionally overdosed Rebecca, particularly with Clonidine, a blood-pressure medication used as a sedative.

In his ruling, O’Connor hardly exonerated the Rileys. Describing grand jury testimony, O’Connor said that Michael Riley was physically abusive, especially with his son, and “also was mentally abusive to Carolyn.”

“He controlled whatever money they had and used most of his (Social Security disability) benefits on himself,” O’Connor wrote. “He showed little interest in the children and was constantly telling Carolyn to shut them up and get them to bed.”

O’Connor also pointed out that Rebecca’s psychiatrist, Dr. Kayoko Kifuji, had warned Carolyn Riley that increasing the girl’s dose of Clonidine could lower her blood pressure to the point of death.

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

O’Connor said that the evidence presented to the grand jury was enough to establish probable cause that the Rileys knew that overmedicating Rebecca created “a plain and strong likelihood of death.”

The judge dismissed assertions by the defense lawyers that the grand jury indictment was flawed because they were not given exculpatory evidence.

According to O’Connor’s ruling, evidence excluded from grand jury testimony included photographs of Rebecca looking well 36 hours before her death; information that Carolyn Riley had discussed lowering Rebecca’s Clonidine dosage with Kifuji; and that other adults living with the Rileys also used drugs prescribed for the Riley children.

O’Connor had previously issued a gag order that prevents lawyers from either side from speaking to the media about the case.

The next hearing in the case is set for Jan. 11.

Last month, in an unrelated case, Michael Riley was convicted of giving pornography to a 13-year-old girl and acquitted of charges of sexually assaulting her in 2005, more than a year before Rebecca died.

Julie Jette may be reached at

Gatehouse News reporter Kyle Alspach contributed to this report.