Rebecca Riley
April 11, 2002 - December 13, 2006
On December 13, 2006 at around 6:30am, a 911 call came in and the man, Michael Riley told the dispatcher:

"My daughter passed away in the night" 

Police went to the home where Rebecca Riley had lived and found her lifeless body, laying on top of a clothes and a stuffed brown bear, she was wearing only a pink Pullup. Later, there would be an investigation into why Michael Riley, who had been court ordered to stay away, had been home alone with Rebecca when police arrived.

Denise Monteiro, from DSS filed a request, a few days later, with the Probate And Family Court so that a review could be done of the treatment of the children in the home, by an independent medical  agency:

 "We wanted a second opinion on everything"

Denise said that a second opinion was asked for due to concerns  about other children in the home, a six year old and an 11 year old. Rebecca had been taken medication and in the past, there had been concerns of her taking too much of the medication. The agency had learned that the other two children in the home had both been
diagnosed with the same problems as Rebecca and were possibly taking the same medications. DSS took custody of both children and 

placed them in foster homes, for their own safety.

Dr. Kayoko Kifuji had diagnosed five year old Rebecca with Bipolar disorder, Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder. Rebecca was prescribed Clonidine, which is a blood pressure medication that is, at times, used to calm aggressive children. Also prescribed were Seroquel which is an anti psychotic drug and Depakote which is an antiseizure drug. Rebecca died from an overdose of a mixture of these medications. Clonidine and Depakote are not even approved by the FDA for treatment in children, only adults.

"After the child died, there was so much questioning about medication, we decided to seek an independent second opinion. We hadn't received an autopsy report about her death, and we were concerned that the two children could face similar trauma"

Police Chief Richard Billings said that an investigation into the death of Rebecca would continue, though he didn't say if charges would be brought against Dr. Kifuji or any of the pharmacists who had given the medications to Rebecca. Between the dates of August 15 and November 27, 15 refills for Clonidine, which is the drug that killed
Rebecca, were given at Walgreens. Michael Polzin, the spokesman for Walgreens said that this company was not under investigation:

"We are deeply saddened to hear about this. As far as the medication that was taken, we filled a valid 
prescription authorized by the patient's physician, and all of the appropriate drug information and 
directions were given to the family"

This is disturbing to me. A Pharmacist SHOULD know if a drug is appropriate for a child or if the FDA approves it for children or not. Questions SHOULD have been asked and reports to the appropriate people SHOULD have been made saying that a child had been given medication meant ONLY for adults.

The State Department Of Social Services had received a report that stated concerns about Rebecca taking too many drugs, the summer before she died. The case was dropped after Rebecca's mother and her doctor said that the treatment was appropriate. A therapist had been the one to make the report and DSS chose NOT to do a review at that time. That review wouldn't come until it was too late to save Rebecca.

That complaint would not be the first to come in about the Riley family. DSS had been involved with them since December of 2002, though not always about medications or about Rebecca. Another complaint was filed in June of 2005 when the oldest child in the home was taken to the hospital. Doctors told DSS that he was put into the
hospital due to a medical condition.

In July of 2005 DSS met with doctors, neurologist and other medical professionals who were treating Rebecca, her siblings and Carolyn Riley, their mother. A therapist who had visited their home had told DSS that Carolyn was sluggish and seemed to be drugged up. It was later revealed that Carolyn was taking Paxil for depression:

"We were assured that the levels and the amount were within the guidelines. We were assured 
by the mother's  doctors as well that the mother was not receiving too much medication"

The Therapist from South Bay Mental Health Center told police that she was concerned about the type and amount of medication that had been prescribed for Rebecca. Oddly, Dr. Kifuji said he was also concerned, during a phone conversation. Why would a man who had been the one to prescribe the medications, then turn around and say that he was concerned about them? 

In October of 2005, another complaint came in saying that Michael Riley had grabbed one of the children by the neck and slammed his head against the back window of his truck. Carolyn agreed to file a restraining order against him to keep him away from her and the children. She later allowed the order to lapse, though on November 19, 2005, DSS contacted her and she said that the order was current and that she had plans to move:

"We wanted to meet with her and the children and reassure that things are going good. 
She assured us  that the husband would not be coming to live with the family"

DSS had told Michael Riley that he was NOT to be around the children without supervision. In spite of that and the supposed restraining order, Michael moved back in with the family only two weeks before Rebecca's death. Rebecca's death brought about the arrests and charges of first degree murder against Michael and Carolyn stating that they had given her a fatal does of an Antihyperactivity drug, that drug was Clonidine.

The Medical Examiners office ruled that Rebecca had died from "Intoxication due to combined affects" of the drugs she was on:

"This occurred as a result of the intentional overdose of Rebecca with clonidine. The manner of death was determined to be homicide"

Lawmakers planned to hold a meeting where Psychiatrists, Physicians, Pharmacists and others would discuss if children were being over- prescribed power medications:

"The Rebecca Riley case represents a tremendous failure by the state, parents, physician, and pharmacy, and highlights the need for closer scrutiny of the medications being administered 
to children"
Representative Peter J. Koutoujian
Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect

Peter wanted to know why the agency was unable to save the life of Rebecca with the history they had with the Riley family. Peter said that her parents, the Psychiatrist and the pharmacies that filled the prescriptions all played a part in her death:

"You've got four levels that could have caught something, and the confluence of misses that 
created a window for tragedy" 

Peter also said that he wanted Pharmacists, Physicians, Psychiatrists and other medical specialists to testify a a hearing that would take place that March:

"The role of this committee will not be to assess blame. We've got to know what went wrong here, 
so this travesty is never replicated in the future"

The mothers of Michael and Carolyn stated that they were both innocent and would never hurt their children. Valerie Berio, Carolyn's mother said that they had known each other since they were very young and had gotten married in 1994. Valerie said that Michael was on disability and was unemployed. She also said that Rebecca had been hyperactive in school, but, school administrators had recently described her as being "a little too quiet". Valerie said that the charges against Michael and Carolyn were ludicrous:

"She was their treasure, their angel. They loved her more than life itself. They didn't consciously
give her anything to make her go to sleep and not wake up. Michael is the sweetest kid in the world. They would have never wanted to hurt their daughter. I love him like he's my own kid"

Michael's mother, Kathleen Riley said that Michael and Carolyn were great parents:

"I can't believe this is happening. It's a terrible disgrace. I have no idea how anyone could 
say this is deliberate. I'm shocked. They loved their children"

Kathleen told about how Carolyn had miscarried six years ago and they had been living separately for about a year before Rebecca had died, though they were both home the morning she had died:

"He's been a wonderful father. All the charges against them are false. He cried at night because
he had to live with me for the past year. He's been under such pressure. The poor kid. I don't 
know how he's going to handle this. They just wanted to be together"

In November of 2007, Michael Riley was in court over allegations that he had tried to rape a 13 year old girl. The court ruled that even though Michael had written down fantasies about sex between adults and children, he didn't try to make the fantasies real.

However, Michael, who was 35 at that time, was found guilty of giving explicit stories to the 13 year old child, to read. Michael was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison for that. The child is the daughter of Carolyn, from a previous relationship. Michael was found innocent of sexual assault with intent to rape a child under the age of 14 and four counts of indecent assault and battery on a child under the age of 14.

The girl who had been 13 at the time, was now 15 years old and had accused Michael of fondling her during an overnight visit. The girl said that Michael had given her the binder with Michael's fantasy stories that was titled "Fantasy Porn By Michael J. Riley", he told her to read the stories that he had written in the binder, about sex 
between adults and children.

Michael's lawyer, Julian Hernon, asked the jury to consider that there were inconsistencies in the story of the 13 year old girl when she had told about what happened. The girl had testified that she had heard about the binder and the stories Michael had written before he had handed it to her and claims he told her NOT to read them. Juliann said that she believes the child found the binder and read a story in it and later used that story as a basis for her complaint:

“She wasn’t handed that open binder, she was curious, as any adolescent would be” 

David Traub, a spokesman for Norfolk County District Attorney, William Keating, had nothing but praise for the 13 year old girl who had testified against Michael:

“It is important here to recognize the courage of the victim. She stood up there and 
followed this through to a verdict. Without that victims courage, we would 
not have gotten this 2 1/2-year sentence”

On October 30, 2008, Carolyn was ordered released from jail on her own recognizance. She would have to prove to the judge that she had a place to live before she would actually be released. She was released in November of 2008 after a judge reduced the charges that
she and Michael would face from first degree murder to second degree murder. Michael was held without bail.

In February of 2009, prosecutors were trying to get Carolyn back into jail after an appeals court reinstated that original charge of first degree murder, claiming there was new evidence that the death of Rebecca was premeditated. Assistant District Attorney, Frank Middleton, asked the judge to keep Carolyn in jail without bail. A
trial date has been set for August 10, 2009.

A seven page ruling said that there was evidence that Michael had often told Carolyn to give the children more medication than what was prescribed in order to "quiet them down and make them pass out":

"Whenever they began to annoy him, he told Carolyn to shut them up with Clonidine, 
telling her to 'give them their pills  and give them their meds. Michael was abusive
and preferred his car to the children"
Judge Joseph Grasso Jr. 

Michael's lawyer, Jon Darrell, said that he is going to appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court:

"I think the evidence was insufficient to establish first-degree murder or any prong of murder. 
My original request was that this should be reduced 
to manslaughter, and that's still my position"

Though disappointed with the ruling, Carolyn's lawyer, Michael Bourbeau said he would not appeal the ruling:

"She did not die of a drug overdose, which would make it not a homicide. This is 
a death by natural causes"
Michael Bourbeau

Plymouth District Attorney Timothy Cruz said that prosecutors are happy with the ruling.

In March of 2009, a lawsuit was filed against Dr Kayoko Kifuji saying he should be held responsible for the death of Rebecca and that he had diagnosed Rebecca too quickly, with Bipolar Disorder. The claim also states that he did not monitor her closely enough. Lawyers say that Rebecca's parents are to blame since they gave her more than was prescribed of the medication.

Andrew Meyer Jr., the attorney who represents the estate of Rebecca, said that the amount of power drugs that were prescribed by Dr Kifuji turned her into a four year old zombie and were responsible for her death. The school nurse at the Johnson Early Childhood Center had talked to Dr Kifuji as well as Carolyn about how the medication was leaving Rebecca lethargic and she wasn't able to participate to the full extent, in school.

Dr. Kifuji was not charged in the case, however, she voluntarily gave up her medical license while the case is being investigated. She still says the blame is on the parents who gave Rebecca too much of the medication which had been prescribed to her.

During Michael Riley's trial Dr Kifuji was asked if she had any second thoughs about how she had gone about the
treatment of Rebecca and she said:

“No, I have not, based on the information I received and on my observations of the patient ,
I have not changed my mind about her diagnosis and treatment”

Dr Kifuji denied any wrong doing in her handling of Rebecca's case.

UPDATE:

Tufts settles suit against doctor in girl’s death for $2.5m
By Patricia Wen
Globe Staff / January 25, 2011

Lawyers for the estate of 4-year-old Rebecca Riley announced last night that they have settled their medical malpractice lawsuit against the girl’s psychiatrist, Dr. Kayoko Kifuji of Tufts Medical Center, for $2.5 million.

Boston lawyer Benjamin Novotny said the settlement will be distributed to Rebecca’s two siblings, now 15 and 10, with whom she had lived in Hull before her death four years ago from an overdose of psychiatric drugs prescribed by Kifuji.

Rebecca’s parents, Carolyn and Michael Riley, were convicted last year in separate trials of murdering their daughter through their reckless dispensing of the drugs used for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and bipolar illness.

Andrew Meyer, who works with Novotny, said the settlement did not contain any admission of wrongdoing on the part of Kifuji, but he said the doctor’s lawyers’ decision to settle for $2.5 million, which Meyer said is the maximum paid out by Kifuji’s malpractice policy, suggests culpability. He said the hospital self-insures many of its doctors, including Kifuji.

Tufts Medical Center, which continues to employ Kifuji as a child psychiatrist, said officials chose to settle to spare the siblings more heartache.

“A lengthy civil trial would once again subject Rebecca’s siblings and everyone who cared about her to the painful details brought forth during the criminal trials of her parents,’’ said a statement released last night through spokeswoman Julie Jette.

The psychiatrist’s role in Rebecca’s death has been a source of intense controversy. Shortly after Rebecca died in December 2006, Kifuji entered into a voluntary agreement with the Board of Registration of Medicine to halt her practice.

But two years later, after the grand jury declined to indict her and the licensing board conducted its own initial inquiry, the board allowed her to return to practice. Kifuji has been seeing patients over the past year.

Still, many in the medical and legal community questioned why Kifuji was not held criminally accountable. When Rebecca died, Kifuji was the psychiatrist for all three Riley children, diagnosing each with ADHD and bipolar illness and prescribing similar mood-altering drugs.

According to testimony during the trials, Kifuji had been fooled by the parents into believing the children had serious psychiatric illnesses, in part so the parents could collect federal disability checks for the youngsters’ alleged behavioral and mental disorders. Many jurors questioned why Kifuji, who had indications about the parents’ dangerous conduct, did not do more to protect the Riley children.

Kifuji, who agreed to testify only after being granted immunity from prosecution, said in court that she was following diagnostic criteria and treatment protocols followed by many well-established child psychiatrists. She said she had no idea that the parents were giving extra medication to their children.

Novotny said the estate chose not to go to trial because any judgment beyond $2.5 million would have to be recovered from the psychiatrist’s personal assets, and they assessed those were relatively limited.

Carolyn Riley’s teenage child from a previous relationship had also been involved in the medical malpractice case, but the judge ruled that that child was not entitled to any of the settlement, Novotny said.

Novotny also said the final settlement included language requiring Tufts to set up educational and outreach programs to help provide more mental health services for children. He said he was pleased that the case is settled, but added, “There’s no amount of money that can right this wrong.’’

Below is a picture of the memorial card passed out at Rebecca's funeral.



Return To Rebecca's Story
Read A Timeline Of Events Surrounding Rebecca's Death

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