By Calvin Palmer
A Massachusetts mother was today found guilty of second-degree murder for giving her four-year-old daughter a fatal overdose of a prescription drug.
Carolyn Riley, 35, of Hull, administered a psychotropic drug to daughter Rebecca in December 2006. Rebecca never woke up.
Plymouth Superior Court Judge Charles Hely sentenced Riley to the mandatory term of life in prison with parole eligibility in 15 years.
“Today we have a small measure of justice for Rebecca Riley,” Plymouth District Attorney Timothy Cruz said outside the courtroom.
Defense attorney Michael Bourbeau said he planned to appeal the verdict.
Prosecutors Frank J Middleton Jr and Heather Bradley depicted Carolyn Riley as a woman who routinely overused sedating psychiatric pills to control her energetic toddlers and induce sleep.
Riley went to a lethal extreme in the hours before her daughter died on December 13, 2006, dispensing as much as twice the girl’s daily dosage of clonidine in one dose as the girl was already battling a respiratory illness.
In Riley’s mind, according to prosecutors, her husband’s needs always trumped her children’s; and the night Rebecca received her fatal overdose, the husband was irate about the sick child’s repeated efforts to enter her parents’ bedroom, moaning, “Mommy … Mommy.”
Prosecutors said Riley also had a scheme to obtain federal disability checks through fraudulent claims that her children were mentally disabled, and, by fabricating her children’s behavioral problems, she managed over three years to dupe a Tufts Medical Center child psychiatrist, Dr. Kayoko Kifuji, into authorizing drugs.
The defense attorneys portrayed Riley as an overwhelmed mother deserving of sympathy, a former foster child who was doing her best to raise a family in which the parents and three children all had mental health issues. She had to make difficult choices and in the face of a domineering and, occasionally, violent husband.
Her attorneys also contended that the girl’s death was due to a rapid-onset, aggressive pneumonia.
Her husband, Michael Riley, faces a first-degree murder charge but is being tried separately. His trial is scheduled for March 8.
[Based on a report by The Boston Globe.]