Mom held in death of girl, 4, is released
Parents' trial is still months away
BROCKTON - A woman accused with her husband of giving their 4-year-old daughter a fatal overdose of prescription drugs will be released from jail while she awaits trial, a judge ruled yesterday.
Judge Charles Hely said that Carolyn Riley could be released on personal recognizance once she proves she has a place to live. Riley has been held without bail since February 2007, when she and her husband, Michael, were charged in the death of their daughter, Rebecca.
Rebecca was found dead on the floor of her parents' bedroom in Hull on Dec. 13, 2006.
A state medical examiner found that Rebecca died of a combination of clonidine, a blood pressure medication she had been prescribed for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder; Depakote, an antiseizure and mood-stabilizing drug prescribed after she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder; a cough suppressant; and an antihistamine. The amount of clonidine alone in Rebecca's system was enough to be fatal, the medical examiner said.
The Rileys have said they were only following the orders of their daughter's psychiatrist, who prescribed the drugs. But prosecutors have depicted the Rileys as parents who purposefully fed their three children excessive amounts of prescription drugs to keep them quiet and out of their way.
The case reignited a long-running debate within the psychiatric community about whether young children can accurately be diagnosed with bipolar disorder and whether they should be given powerful psychiatric drugs.
In Brockton Superior Court yesterday, Carolyn Riley's lawyer, Michael Bourbeau, argued that she should be released while awaiting trial, citing a report from a defense expert who says that Rebecca died of a type of pneumonia and not from a drug overdose.
Assistant District Attorney Frank Middleton urged the judge to keep Riley in jail. He said the Rileys had a "disturbing pattern" of giving all three of their children large amounts of psychiatric drugs, both to keep them under control and to collect Social Security disability payments.
He said Rebecca died because "somebody stuffed a lot of pills, mainly Clonidine, into her mouth."
"Her bail should not be touched," Middleton said.
Hely, however, decided to allow Riley's release based on the fact that she has been in jail for 20 months and that it may be at least several more months before the case goes to trial.
The trial has been tentatively scheduled for Jan. 22, but could be postponed as the state Appeals Court considers prosecutors' appeal of a decision reducing the charge against the Rileys from first- to second-degree murder.
"Because of the length of confinement, I am going to order a release," said Hely, who did not consider the report that Rebecca died of pneumonia in his decision.
Hely said Carolyn Riley must prove she has an acceptable residence in Plymouth or Norfolk counties before her release. Her lawyer, Michael Bourbeau, told the judge he would try to find her a place in a homeless shelter.
Michael Riley is serving a 2 1/2-year prison sentence after being convicted in November 2007 of providing obscene material to a child under 14 in a different case.