Matthew Riley

Just as the last case I published, this case also has much controversy surrounding it.  One could say this one is different because the family of the victims do not believe the defendant to be guilty, but it should also be said that the family of the victims, are also the family of the defendant.  

On December 9, 2008 in Sacramento California, a 9-1-1 call was made around 4:30 pm.  The caller was Matthew Riley who would claim to have found the body of his father in his father's home.  While talking to the operator he would go through the home and upstairs would find the body of his mother in her bedroom.  Within a few minutes officers would arrive on the scene to find Matthew on the front porch of the home crying and smoking a cigarette.

Just inside the front room lay the body of Steven Riley and in the master bedroom investigators would find the body of his wife, Linda.  A medical examination would determine that each had been stabbed nearly twenty times. The home appeared to be ransacked but authorities were suspicious from the beginning.  This did not look like a robbery.  First there did not appear to be forced entry anywhere into the home (although authorities would find a screen to a window, but would believe it was staged as an exit, not entry) and there were valuables that would normally be taken in a robbery all throughout the home. These things included a computer, a television, power tools and even wallets and jewelry and they were all in plain sight.  

It does not take a seasoned investigator to know that this looked like a rage killing and not a burglary.  The vast number of injuries to the victims told them that the perpetrator was angry, especially considering that all of Linda's injuries, aside from what appeared to be a few defensive wounds on her hands, were from the chest up.  

Two days after the discovery of his parents' body authorities were called to the apartment that Matthew shared with is wife and two children.  He had attempted suicide by cutting his wrists.  This, among other things led not just authorities but apparently his wife to believe he had been responsible for the murders of his parents.

Before I go much further into this I want to point out that I found a few articles that state Matthew's wife's name was Jennifer.  However, appeal paper state that her name as being Jannilin Overton.  For continued purposes I will use the name used in the appeal papers.

Authorities would look into the lives of Steven and Linda Riley and their relationships.  The Riley's apparently had at least two children, son Matthew and a daughter.  Friends of the couple would tell authorities and testify that the Riley's were not happy with their son Matthew and while for his part he admits having issues with his parents, Matthew, and most of his family say they were mending.  It seems that Matthew had an issue holding a job and supporting his family.  In the summer of 2008 Matthew had lived with his parents for a few months.  He then moved into an apartment in which his wife and two daughters were living.  However, by December of 2008 the family was facing eviction and Matthew was no longer working, something that seemed to be a trend for him according to the couple's friends.  

It seems the Riley's anticipated that their son was going to want to return living in their home, with or without his family.  Matthew admits the eviction was inevitable but that only he planned to live with his parents.  His wife and children were in the process of moving into what was called a transitional living facility but they only accepted women and children.  One friend of the couple stated that in November of 2008 the couple expressed their disappointment that Matthew was no longer working and said under no circumstances would they allow him or his family to move back in with them.  Another friend of Linda's told the court that Matthew had recently turned down a job offer, which irritated the couple and that Linda stated again under no circumstances would her son be moving back into their home but had expressed the couples children would be allowed.  This contradicts what the couples daughter would tell the court.  She would tell the courts that she and her mother had discussed the issue and her mother was okay with Matthew moving back into the home.  

A week after the murders Matthew was arrested and charged with two counts of first degree murder.  He would ultimately be convicted and in January of 2012 he would be sentenced to life in prison without parole.  

Many would argue that it was Matthew's wife, and her changing stories that would send him to prison and for the most part I would agree but there was more evidence against him than just her testimony.  However, we will start with what she had to say.  Jannilin would tell investigators that on the day of the murders Matthew had left their home around 3 am.  I was unable to determine what, if any, reason she stated he may have left at that hour but both she and Matthew agree that aside from the eviction that was imminent, their marriage was failing.  When people are at that stage in their relationship they do not always communicate their comings and goings.  To be fair there are those who say, and apparently Jannilin has admitted, that her story has changed at times and at one point she had stated she was sleeping and did not know when he left. However, in court she stated he left at close the three in the morning and returned between 7:30 and 8.  She would claim that when he returned he had donuts from a bakery that was located between their home and the home of his parents and not from a grocery store that was closer to their home.  She would also claim that he had almost immediately changed his clothes and put them in the washer which was unusual for him.  I found nothing that reported if she claimed to have seen the condition of his clothing or the presence of blood.

Later that day the couple had done some errands preparing for their move with Jannilin's mother.  Her mother would testify that Matthew told her that he would be moving back in with his parents.  Jannilin stated Matthew left the home again around 3:15 pm stating he was going to go to his parents' house and talk to his mother about the move.  

Matthew would tell the police that he arrived at the home at approximately 4:20 and had used his key to enter.  He stated he did not expect either of his parents to be home yet from worked and planned to wait.  A security camera by one of the Riley's neighbors indicate that he had been in the home for seven minutes before he had emerged.  Matthew would say that when he did see his father's body he grabbed the phone inside the house but there was not a dial tone and he had left his cell phone in the car and had to go outside to make the 9-1-1 call.  Prosecutors would argue that his father's body was visible from nearly the second one walked into the door of the home and would not have accounted for the seven minutes, especially since he would claim to not discover his mother's body until after he had made the 9-1-1 call.  

The investigation had found evidence of a clean up in the laundry room of the home.  The crime scene had also indicated that the perpetrator had committed the crime in socks but there were boot prints in blood also.  As far as Matthew went, he had an injury near one of his eyes.  He would tell investigators that the injury had occurred when his infant daughter had pinched him. His wife disagreed that this could have or did happen. Matthew also had a cut on his finger that he described as a "paper cut" he received from a box at some previous time.

Matthew's feet became of much interest in this investigation.  First he would claim to no longer own boots that matched the prints found in the home saying he had gotten rid of them several months prior.  Investigators would testify that when Matthew stated this his wife was sitting next to him in the interview and showed a very surprised expression on her face.  In January of 2011 after their eviction from the apartment but before his trial, the apartment complex had a contractor out to the property who was on the roof of the building in which the Riley's had lived.  There they found boots that would later be determined to have belonged to Matthew Riley.  The other interesting thing about Matthew Riley's feet, were not just the size and shape of them but that the perpetrator had apparently removed his shoes.  Friends of the couple stated this was a common occurrence at the Riley home as the couple and their guests were almost required to remove their shoes when they entered the home.  Matthew's feet were compared to the imprints and it was said they were a match due to the size and condition of his toes.

Fingerprints were taken inside the home and it was determined that no unknown prints were found and that all belonged either to the Riley's or their family members. 

While the prosecution had friends of the couple as well as the defendants own wife testifying against him, the defense had what seems like the remainder of Matthew's family testifying in his behalf.  None of the family members claim to have ever seen Matthew violent and he did not have a criminal record. Matthew's sister also testified that her parents' will stated that neither child was to inherit any monies from their estate until which they reached the age of forty. She would claim she had been told this and was told by her parents that Matthew had or would be also informed of this information. Matthew was thirty-three at the time the crime occurred.

It was not odd to find sites in which claim the innocence of a now convicted person but I felt like there seemed to be more than usual pertaining to this case.  Matthew's sister, grandfather and aunt have all proclaimed his innocence and a vast majority of them, as I said earlier, blame his wife and what they call her ever changing story.  Once again, I disagree.  While his wife has admitted that she changed some stories, and it does not seem that she necessarily had a reason for that I believe other evidence in the case points to his guilt.  I would have liked to have seen some cell phone records but it was discussed in the appeal that the company in which Matthew had a phone was only able to check the location when it was in use.  There had been one or two calls made to the Riley home after investigators believe they had died that originated from Matthew Riley's home or area and then the 9-1-1 call which obviously came from the Riley home.  However, for me several things, aside from his wife's testimony point to his guilt.  First and foremost I think the time spent inside the home before the 9-1-1 call was made is telling if in fact Steven Riley's body was as visible as officers claim and I have no reason to disbelieve this.  I also believe the finding of the boots on top of the building is telling. But, most of all for me the fact that these murders appeared so vicious and yet nothing was taken from the home, nor were prints or DNA found of anyone else, is the strongest evidence.  

In his 2014 appeal the defense would argue that the trial judge had erred when he allowed information about the fact that Matthew and his wife had a habit of watching what was considered to be bestiality pornography and that the prosecution had mentioned it often in trial, tainting the jury.  It appears the appeals court was not super thrilled with this but added with the totality of the evidence they found no harm and the conviction and sentence was affirmed. Despite all the claims of innocence and unfair trial I believe this sentence and conviction will stand the test of time. 


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