Michael Riley Convicted

March 27, 2010 at 10:12 am 4 comments

…and Dr. Kifuji might not be off the hook after all. In a clear case of parents’ drugging of their children that’s gone beyond abusive, first Carolyn and now Michael Riley have been convicted of murdering their four year old daughter. From the Boston Globe:

Capping one of the most unusual child abuse cases in Massachusetts history, a South Shore father was convicted yesterday of first-degree murder for killing his 4-year-old daughter with an overdose of a psychotropic drug, which he and his wife had nicknamed “happy medicine’’ and routinely dispensed to their three children to manage their day-to-day behavior…

Prosecutors said Rebecca’s parents fabricated their children’s behavioral problems, making up reports of hallucinations and violent outbursts, in order to obtain drugs to sedate them and to help them qualify for government benefits for families with disabled children.

To be clear, we’re not talking about a couple of parents who might have overdone it or a child that had a freak response to slightly liberal drugging. The Rileys did all they could to obtain drugs and when they had them, they used them to poison their children into a state of quiet compliance. Rebecca was on psychotropic drugs since she was two, as were her siblings. In addition to the chemical abuse, Michael was also physically abusive and had even been removed from the home when charged with attempted rape, indecent assault, battery and giving pornography to a minor — his stepdaughter. He returned just two weeks before Rebecca died.

When you have a family so abusive, broken and damaged that a father that could do that sort of thing and be welcomed back to the home — with the children and by the mother — what sort of care can we expect them to give to their children’s minds and how could anyone think they would act responsibly with such powerful drugs that should never have been given to them in the first place? One way that at least one part of a host of problems could have been eliminated would have come down to a responsible doctor. There was none. Not only was Dr. Kifuji aware of Michael’s abuses, she was instrumental in his returning to the home.

A Weymouth Housing Authority manager testified that Michael Riley, 37, had been banned since 2005 from spending overnights in the family’s apartment there, the result of pending charges that included providing pornography to a minor. A social worker said the father’s alleged beating of his son in 2006 triggered a renewed child-abuse investigation, and the mother, while remaining devoted to the father, filed a restraining order to protect the boy. A house guest also testified that the Rileys’ three children often seemed “more timid’’ when their father was around…

Kifuji diagnosed at least two of the Riley children, while toddlers, with mental disorders after only a one-hour consultation, did not order appropriate blood work while they were on potent pills, and seemingly ignored input from preschool teachers and other clinicians who said the children seemed weak and overmedicated.

It looks like Kifuji might still have to answer for her beyond liberal dispensing of drugs and her negligent psychiatric “care” after all — and why shouldn’t she? While she may not get the full measure of the law, she may have to start worrying about her status as a psychiatrist. For the sake of the children she’s still seeing at Tufts, one can only hope.

After the verdict, Plymouth District Attorney Timothy J. Cruz said he plans to ask the Board of Registration of Medicine to reopen its investigation of Kifuji, who he has said turned a blind eye to the numerous signs that the parents were troubled and reckless in dispensing drugs.

“Dr. Kifuji is unfit to have a medical license,’’ he said. “If what Dr. Kifuji did in this case is the acceptable standard of care for children in Massachusetts, then there is something very wrong in this state.’’

Kifuji testified in both cases, but only after being granted immunity from prosecution.

Cruz said he plans to assemble the transcripts of her testimony, among other things, to present to the licensing board. That information, prosecutors said, showed negligence in how she assessed and followed patients, not just that she subscribes to the controversial belief — as do some other prominent psychiatrists — that toddlers can be diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

The Rileys are certainly near the end of the spectrum of child drugging and the severity of this case makes it seem like a singular event. It is not. Instead of just focusing on the severity of this one instance, we should question the culture of drugs and control that has allowed us, even in much milder and seemingly harmless instances, to use drugs to turn off the part of children that makes them children. In so many instances, we’ve gone well past the point of not letting kids be kids to not letting kids be human

This is an extreme and terrible case with the Riley children being drugged, one of them to death, in order to keep them under control from the time they were toddlers — not for acting out, not for being out of control kids but for being children. In the end Rebecca Riley was given a lethal dose of Clonidine, a blood pressure medication used off label to treat withdrawal from narcotics and alcohol, for crying out for her mother while she struggled with pneumonia.This is tragic and disgusting every way you look at it.


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  • 1. Frank  |  March 27, 2010 at 1:13 pm

    The prosecution is talking about the possibility of taking the psychiatrist’s license to practice medicine away. I hope they manage to do so. You’ve got a husband and wife team convicted of 1st and 2n degree murder respectively, and I find it hard to say that’s not a little much. These 2 had 3 children, each with a psychiatric label, and drug prescriptions. Neither parent had the power and authority to (diagnose) label a child, and prescribe drugs. They couldn’t have killed their kid without the shrink.

    • 2. abellve  |  March 28, 2010 at 12:30 pm

      Frank, I too hope Kifuji loses her license. It’s a terrible offense to grant immunity to someone who is directly responsible but that’s what has happened. It’s also a terrible offense that she is allowed to see and medicate her child patients without restriction or penalty. At least the latter avenue hasn’t been cut off. Hopefully, lacking the ability to hold her criminally accountable, she will at least have to answer in the professional arena. When they need to use the word of psychiatrists to control people, the doc’s authority is without question but when it all goes terribly wrong, the authority and accountability go out the window. It can’t be all on the doctor either, especially considering the fact that the family was playing around with drug cocktails and dosing without Kifuji’s direction, not that she cared (and of course actually administered the drugs).
      As for the charges, for me it’s not a matter of it being a little much though I know what you mean. I don’t care if they spend the rest of their days in prison, they killed a four year old. I don’t think you can over-penalize people whose child’s death comes as a direct result of ongoing abuse, chemical or otherwise. I would, however, hate to see the charges overturned on a technicality. It would appear to be more an act of manslaughter though it certainly was not without malicious intent. In the end, I don’t think anyone said, “Hey, let’s kill this child and get some sleep.” I think we have no less than three people, more or less equally responsible for Rebecca’s death and while they may not have been out to kill her, they certainly showed no regard for the fact that they could and were doing so.

  • 3. Pat Schleicher  |  September 28, 2010 at 10:37 am

    Can you imagine how many more people are drugging their children in order to receive SSI??? This should be looked into.

  • 4. Pat Schleicher  |  September 28, 2010 at 10:38 am

    Can you imagine the tens of thousands of children who are being drugged in order to obtain SSI!!!!!



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