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Wabasha County man pleads guilty to killing his father

James Edward Riley, 46, pleaded guilty in Wabasha County District Court on Friday, May 13, 2022, to killing his father in March 2021

James Edward Riley
James Edward Riley
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WABASHA — The Wabasha County man charged with killing his father more than a year ago pleaded guilty Friday, May 13, 2022, to second-degree murder for the 73-year-old man's death.

James Edward Riley, 46, pleaded guilty in Wabasha County District Court to second-degree-with intent-not premeditated. He had also been charged with first-degree premeditated murder, which carried a mandatory life sentence.

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As part of the guilty plea, Riley admitted to hitting his father on the back of head with a hammer then stabbing him multiple times, according to a news release from the Wabasha County Attorney's Office. Prosecutors presented an audio recording of Riley's statement admitting he killed his father as well as audio of the 911 call and a portion of the elder Riley's autopsy report.

Law enforcement was called to the rural Zumbro Falls farm on Friday, March 5, 2021, for a report of a death.

Edward Riley, 73, was found by his wife, dead in the trunk of his vehicle, which had been parked in a "strange location," the criminal complaint states. His body had been covered with a tarp inside the vehicle's trunk. A pail of dirt and a hoe were also in the trunk.


A pair of James Riley's shoes with what appeared to be blood on them, as well as spots of blood closer to the house and a shovel with blood on it leaning against a tree, were found by law enforcement.

James Riley was not home when law enforcement arrived but returned to the residence about 2-1/2 hours after the initial 911 call. He initially denied hurting his father but eventually admitted to law enforcement he did it, according to the criminal complaint.

Following his arrest, Riley underwent a psychiatric evaluation and was found to be competent and culpable to proceed in the criminal matter.

A sentencing date was not scheduled Friday. As part of the plea deal, a 432-month, or 36-year, prison sentence was presented.

Wabasha County Attorney Karrie Kelly said in a statement that family members expressed a desire to move forward to allow James Riley's young children, three of whom were present at the time of the murder, "to find closure.”

Emily Cutts is the Post Bulletin's public safety reporter. She joined the Post Bulletin in July 2018 after stints in Vermont and Western Massachusetts.
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