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VENTURA COUNTY NEWS

Victims Had Been Arguing for Days

Crime: Neighbors say the Oxnard couple had quarreled over the weekend before the husband reportedly killed his wife and then himself.

February 28, 2001|TIMOTHY HUGHES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

OXNARD — A couple who died in what police are calling a murder-suicide had been arguing for days, neighbors said Tuesday.

A loud argument Monday at Terry and Mary Riley's rented condominium had followed a weekend of fighting, said Eva Marie Mount, who lives with her husband in the unit next door on Isle Way.

Mount grew worried after she heard blasting music and then silence late Monday afternoon.

A short while later, the Rileys' two sons, 12-year-old Timmy and 14-year-old John, pounded on Mount's front door, saying they could see their father lying on the floor of the condominium. Mount asked her husband, Robert, to investigate, and she called 911.

"They had been arguing for three days," said Mount, who had talked frequently to Terry Riley, 72, but rarely spoke with his wife. "I never thought anything like this would happen."

Mount said erry Riley had asked John to pick up Timmy from basketball practice and take him to get a pizza at a nearby restaurant. When they returned, the boys first tried to climb through a side window before going to their neighbors.

Police say it appears that Riley shot his 45-year-old wife, Mary, at least once in the head and then turned the 12-gauge shotgun on himself. The coroner's office confirmed that each died from a gunshot wound to the head.

The two boys, one a student at Marina West School and the other at Fremont Middle School, are in the custody of their 25-year-old sister, Maria, who lives nearby and works for the Naval Construction Battalion at Naval Base Ventura County.

On Tuesday, Maria Riley and several friends from the base spent much of the day cleaning the small condominium unit. She declined to comment about the incident.

The boys were staying with relatives.

As news of the deaths circulated in the tidy neighborhood of duplexes, some neighbors recalled Terry Riley with fondness while others said the couple had a stormy marriage that predated their move to Isle Way more than a year ago. Several students from Timmy's sixth-grade class stood on the sidewalk in pouring rain Tuesday afternoon because, one said, "we just want to see if he is OK."

Terry Riley was a Navy retiree and oil rig worker who met his wife in the Philippines while stationed overseas more than two decades ago, Robert Mount said.

In recent years, the family had lived in Texas and Seattle before moving to Oxnard and into the complex first rented by Maria Riley.

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Terry Riley was well-known in the neighborhood as someone who was always on the lookout for "bad kids" who didn't live in the area, Eva Marie Mount said.

"He was very boisterous if anything was going on," she said. "Me and him would get together and talk about things. He always showed concern."

The Mounts said they did not know Mary Riley well. She had only recently moved back in after separating from her husband last year, they said.

Other neighbors said they often saw Terry taking his two sons to a nearby park but rarely saw Mary, who reportedly worked as a nursing assistant at St. John's Medical Center in Oxnard.

"This really hits close to home," said Suzie Pech-Torres, who had her 12-year-old son, Greg, with her as she left a vase filled with roses on the doorstep of the duplex.

"This is a devastating blow."

Torres said the two boys often spent the night at her house and, along with her son, had just finished building a clubhouse in her backyard.

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