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Merced mother of two slain sons to hold annual remembrance walk, asks public to join

Oct. 12 will mark the 11th year Marylene Riley will be leading a walk in remembrance of her sons, Michael and Marlis Riley, who were killed within a year of each other more than a decade ago.

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Merced resident Marylene Riley, holds photos of her two sons Michael, left and Marlis, right at the cemetery where her two sons are buried in Merced, Calif., on Friday, July 20, 2018. The Merced Police Department announced on Thursday, that an arrest has been made for the 2008 murder of Michael Riley. Riley, a United States Navy veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, was shot and killed on Oct. 7, 2008 near the Village Meadows Apartments in the 1100 block of Loughborough Drive. Nearly a year later, Marlis Riley was killed following a fight with two men on Sept. 12, 2009. Andrew Kuhn akuhn@mercedsun-star.com
considered the prime suspect

“When we were going to trial, I was excited, happy and thankful,” Riley said. “But to go through that, sitting in the courtroom and listening to the things that happened to (my son), and having everything dropped, was a let down for me.”

But Riley said the disappointment hasn’t deterred her from doing the walk, which has also turned into a day of remembrance for other families who lost loved ones in the Loughborough area of Merced, where both her sons were killed.

“I think it’s a good time for the community to come together and support each other together,” Riley said.

The walk will start at noon in its traditional location in the parking lot of FoodMaxx, in the 1300 block of West Olive Avenue. There will be a social period where supporters can greet each other before traveling the path Michael Riley took before he was killed, north on Meadows Avenue to the intersection with Loughborough Drive.

There, a prayer will be followed by speeches and the releasing of balloons. From there, the march will head toward an alley off Conestoga Drive, where Riley’s younger son Marlis Riley was killed on Sept. 12, 2009, almost a year after older brother Michael was gunned down.

Marlis Riley was killed following an argument and fight with 27-year-old Nicholas Terrill Rhodes and 40-year-old Donald Emory Watts. Murder charges were dropped as Rhodes and Watts pleaded no contest to involuntary manslaughter and were sentenced to four years in prison.

Riley doesn’t believe her youngest son received justice in that case. But she hoped Merced Police Department and Merced County District Attorney’s Office can bring that justice for her eldest son, whose murder remains unsolved.

Riley said she hopes other families who have lost loved ones to violence in the Merced Loughoborough area join her. Riley said the walk’s route can be adjusted to also stop at the sites of anyone else who was killed in the area. Anyone else is encouraged to join.

After Slayton was arrested last year for Michael Riley’s murder, prosecutors couldn’t convince a Merced County judge to accept the testimony of a videotaped interview conducted by the original lead detective, Joe Deliman.

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Merced resident Marylene Riley, holds photos of her two sons Michael, left, and Marlis, right, at the cemetery where her two sons are buried in Merced, Calif., on Friday, July 20, 2018. The Merced Police Department announced on Thursday, that an arrest has been made for the 2008 murder of Michael Riley. Riley, a United States Navy veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, was shot and killed on Oct. 7, 2008 near the Village Meadows Apartments in the 1100 block of Loughborough Drive. Nearly a year later, Marlis Riley was killed following a fight with two men on Sept. 12, 2009. Andrew Kuhn akuhn@mercedsun-star.com
admitted to taking money from the Merced Police Officers’ Association for his own personal use

Deliman interviewed a key witness who placed Slayton as the shooter. But with Deliman’s credibility in question, and the witness nowhere to be found, prosecutors had to drop the charges.

The Merced Police Department further investigated the case and sent their file to the Merced County District Attorney’s Office for review, Merced Police Capt. Bimley West said.

Emails to the District Attorney’s Office requesting comments or an update on the Michael Riley case were not returned Friday.

In an unrelated case, Slayton was arrested in June in San Jose on suspicion of threatening to kill his wife with a gun before leading officers on a chase and abandoning his children in his car, according to San Jose police.

Anyone interested in adjusting the route to stop at the location of their loved one’s death is being asked to contact Marylene Riley before the day of the walk at 209-631-5484.

Vikaas Shanker is an award-winning reporter covering education, crime and courts for the Merced Sun-Star and Los Banos Enterprise. After growing up in Naperville, Illinois and graduating from the University of Kansas, he reported in several Chicago suburbs before moving to Merced County in 2016.
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