While the world watches and waits, and demands to know what killed Anna Nicole Smith (and where her son Daniel got the Methadone which killed him just five months prior – duh), a far more disturbing prescription drug-related death has occurred.
Four-year-old Rebecca Riley died of an overdose of Clonidine, a drug prescribed for bipolar disorder. This would normally be a tragic morality tale about the importance of keeping prescription drugs away from children, except for one undisputed fact.
A doctor had prescribed that drug, along with others, for the little girl starting when she was only two years old; and the little girl was intentionally given the overdose over a period of months in order to control her, prosecutors say.
Apparently what used to be known as the “terrible twos” is now being diagnosed as ADHD and bipolar disorder.
After Rebecca’s death, police found only seven Clonidine tablets in the family’s medicine tray; the pharmacist said there should have been 75.
All together, prosecutors say, Carolyn Riley got 200 more pills in one year than she should have.
The Rileys’ lawyers call them unsophisticated people who did not question their children’s doctors.
Both were unemployed; they collected welfare and disabilty benefits and lived in subsidized housing. Michael Riley, who is also awaiting trial on charges of molesting a stepdaughter in 2005, claimed to suffer from bipolar disorder and a rage disorder; his wife told police she suffered from depression and anxiety.
“They are not the sort of people who go on the Internet and look on WebMD. These are the sort of people who, when they go to a doctor, the doctor is God and they do what the doctor says,” said John Darrell, Michael’s lawyer.
Carolyn’s lawyer, Michael Bourbeau, said that because the Rileys’ three children were all taking Clonidine, Rebecca’s prescription may have come up short at times when her siblings were given some of her pills. And some of the pills may have been lost when they were split in half, he said.
In July, after a therapist filed a complaint with the state Department of Social Services, social workers met with the family’s doctors and other medical professionals and were assured that the medications Rebecca was taking were within medical guidelines.
“There were lots of medical eyes on this case and none of them seemed to say there was an issue of over-medication in this case,” said Social Services Commissioner Harry Spence, who has come under fire for the agency’s handling of the case.
Still, there were lingering concerns. When social workers tried to make a home visit in November, Carolyn “resisted and evaded,” Spence said. Weeks later, workers resolved to make a surprise check, but Rebecca died the very next day, before they could visit.
Rebecca was found dead on the floor of her parents’ bedroom wearing only a pink pull-up diaper and gold-stud earrings, on top of a pile of clothes, magazines and a stuffed brown bear.
Rebecca’s uncle, James McGonnell, and his girlfriend, Kelly Williams, who lived with the Rileys, told police that the Rileys would put their kids to bed as early as 5 p.m. Rebecca, they said, often slept through the day and got up only to eat.
When Michael Riley decided the kids were “acting up,” he told Carolyn to give them pills, McGonnell and Williams told police.
According to McGonnell and Williams, Rebecca spent the last days of her life wandering around the house, sick and disoriented. But the Rileys told police they were not alarmed. “It was just a cold,” Carolyn repeatedly said during police interviews.
The medical examiner said Rebecca died a slow and painful death. She said the overdose of Clonidine caused her organs to shut down, filling her lungs with fluid and causing congestive heart failure.
Williams told police that the night before she died, Rebecca was pale and seemed “out of it.” At one point, the little girl knocked weakly on her parents’ bedroom door and softly called for her mommy, but Michael Riley opened the door a crack and yelled at her to go back to her room, Williams said.
Later that night, McGonnell told police, he heard someone struggling to breathe and found Rebecca gurgling as if something was stuck in her throat. McGonnell told police he wiped vomit from his niece’s face, then kicked in the door to her parents’ room and yelled at the Rileys to take Rebecca to the emergency room.
Instead, Carolyn Riley said, she gave her daughter a half-tablet of Clonidine.
You can read the rest of this extremely disturbing story here.
Obviously, her parents are going for the “I’m too fucking stupid to know what I was doing” defense. However, I fjrmly believe that nobody is that fucking stupid.
Yet to be determined is what other heads will roll in the course of the investigation and, more importantly, whether this will open the public debate into the complete fucking stupidity of psychiatry in general.