Even as her nephew was taken away in shackles for the brutal 2008 double murder of his parents, Angela Amundson held out hope the police and district attorney had the wrong person.
Some five years after Matthew Riley was convicted of killing Steven and Linda Riley at their Natomas home, Amundson received new reason for hope in the form of retired homicide detective Chris Anderson and criminal defense attorney Melissa Lewkowicz.
Anderson and Lewkowicz re-investigate closed homicide cases in hopes of helping the wrongly convicted go free or helping their families move on by reaffirming the police’s findings in their show “Reasonable Doubt,” which is in its first season on Investigation Discovery. The episode about the Matthew Riley murder will air at 10 p.m. PST on Wednesday.
The one-hour show opens with Anderson, who retired after 21 years at the Birmingham Police Department, and Lewkowicz, who practices in Los Angeles, talking to Amundson.
“I’m hoping that you’ll be able to dig up some kind of information that could lead to him getting his conviction overturned,” Amundson said. “We know he didn’t do it. Somebody murdered these people and that person is out their watching TV and eating pizza.”
Amundson said she lost three family members in the Dec. 9, 2008, killings. Steven and Linda were 54 and 53, respectively, at the time of their murders. Each was stabbed 19 times.
“You lose two people you love. And a third one is snatched away for no reason,” she told “Reasonable Doubt.”
The narrative provided by the prosecution was that Riley, who had fallen on hard times, stabbed his parents after they refused to let their adult son, his wife and kids move back in.
Riley’s aunt said she wasn’t surprised Matthew Riley, then 30, was a suspect, but figured the police would quickly move on. They didn’t. Riley was convicted in October 2011. On Jan. 6, 2012, Riley was sentenced to life behind bars without the possibility of parole.
At the sentencing, Sacramento Superior Court Judge Gary S. Mullen sought to convince his family justice had been done.
“This is not a miscarriage of justice, “ Mullen told the court. “The verdict reflects what I think the evidence has shown.”
Amundson called Matthew Riley a delightful, smart person with a great sense of humor. She pointed to the the lack of blood evidence in his car, the lack of defensive wounds, and Linda Riley’s claim that a stalker had been following her in detailing her doubt.
She also questioned the reliability of one of the most damming witnesses against Riley: his wife.
During the trial, Jannilin Overton took the witness stand in Sacramento Superior Court and told the court her husband left their Auburn apartment at about 3:30 a.m. the morning of the murder and didn’t return until 7:30 a.m., giving him ample time to commit the murders. She had previously told authorities her husband was home through the night.
“I don’t believe Matt would have been convicted if they didn’t have his wife Jenny’s testimony,” Amundson said. “She lied. She would just lie when there is no reason to lie.”
Riley’s wife is among the people Anderson and Lewkowicz talk to during the episode.
Anderson and Lewkowicz called the evidence “largely circumstantial” before setting out to take a fresh look at the case against Riley.