Prosecutors to seek death penalty for suspect in Florida family massacre

Southeast

(Photo: Polk County Sheriff’s Office / WFLA)

LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) — The state of Florida has announced that it intends to seek the death penalty for the man accused of massacring a family in a Lakeland home in early September.

On Sept. 5, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd announced investigators believed Bryan James Riley, a former sharpshooter with the U.S. Marines, shot and killed four complete strangers in their home, including a baby.

Judd also said Riley injured an 11-year-old girl in the shooting, who told deputies she survived by playing dead until she was rescued.

This past Tuesday, a grand jury formally indicted Riley on 22 criminal charges, including four counts of first-degree murder.

In a notice of intent signed by State Attorney Brian Haas, the state made it clear that it would seek the maximum punishment for these murder charges based on aggravating circumstances. Some of the factors listed in the document are the heinous nature of the murders, the way the crime was planned, and the fact that one of the victims was under the age of 12.

During a motion hearing Friday, Riley’s public defender argued the state should not gain access to Riley’s medical records.

Prosecutors have filed notices of intent to subpoena records from Lakeland Regional Health and James A. Haley VA Hospital in Tampa.

While receiving treatment at Lakeland Regional Health after the shooting, Riley told detectives he had taken methamphetamine, according to the sheriff’s office.

In addition, his girlfriend told detectives Riley suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and injuries.

“He was injured during his tours overseas when he was in Marines,” testified lead detective Christopher Bulman in court.

“Have you received information of what one of those injuries might be?” asked assistant state’s attorney Mikaela Perry.

“Yes, a concussion,” answered Bulman.

Jane McNeill, Riley’s public defender, objected to the medical records subpoenas.

“The court must act as a shield to protect the patient’s right to privacy by determining whether the medical records are relevant to the pending criminal investigation,” said McNeill.

Riley’s arraignment is set for October 12.

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