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article imageJury Convicts Father in Daughter’s Overdose Death

By Martin Laine     Mar 27, 2010 in Crime
A Massachusetts jury has convicted Michael Riley, 37, of first-degree murder in the 2006 death of his daughter, Rebecca. The girl was found dead on the floor of her parents’ bedroom after being given an overdose of prescription drugs to quiet her down.
Riley was sentenced to life in prison without parole. The girl’s mother, Carolyn Riley, 35, was convicted last month of second-degree murder for the same crime, and was sentenced to prison, but will be eligble for parole in 15 years, according to the Boston Globe.
Prosecutors are also calling for a re-opening of the investigation into the role of the psychiatrist who prescribed the medications. An earlier inquiry by the Board of Registration of Medicine found no wrongdoing.
At the time of her death, Rebecca had been suffering from a respiratory illness, and was repeatedly calling out for her mother. According to testimony, Michael Riley refused to allow her to be taken to a doctor, and instead instructed his wife to give her a stronger than usual dose of the medications to calm her down. This was an apparently common practice in the household, to the point that they had nicknamed these medications the “Happy Medicine.”
Rebecca and her two older siblings, then aged 6 and 11, had all been diagnosed with bipolar and hyperactivity disorders, and had been prescribed three psychiatric drugs by Dr. Kayoko Kifuji, of Tufts Medical Center.
Prosecutors contended that Michael Riley had fabricated accounts of the children’s behaviors to get a diagnosis that would enable him to apply for Social Security disability benefits.
Dr. Kifuji testified at both trials, but only on condition of immunity.
Kifuji diagnosed two of the Riley children while they were still toddlers, with mental disorders after a single one-hour consultation, prescribed the psychiatric medications based on that consultation, and did not order any follow-up bloodwork to monitor their use. Later, when school officials complained that the children seemed overmedicated, Dr. Kifuji did not respond.
Plymouth District Attorney Timothy J. Cruz said after the trial that he would assemble the testimony and other evidence and ask the Board of Registration to re-open their investigation. A spokesman for the Board said they will review any information provided to them.
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