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State Parole Board Denies Parole for Man who Committed 1992 Murder in Brockton

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Contact: Beth Stone 508-584-8120

BROCKTON – The state Parole Board has issued its unanimous decision denying parole to a man who murdered a 31 year-old man in 1992, Plymouth County District Attorney Timothy J. Cruz has announced.

 On June 10, 1992, William Riley invited the victim, John E. Nelson, 31, to his Brockton apartment where Riley lived with his then girlfriend and her two teenaged sons. At some point, Nelson asked to see Riley’s 9 millimeter, semi-automatic firearm. After unloading the gun, Riley handed the gun to Nelson. Nelson looked at the gun for several minutes before handing it back to Riley. Riley then reloaded the gun, allowing a live round in the chamber, before pointing the gun at Nelson’s forehead and firing, killing Nelson. The shooting of Nelson was witnessed by the two teenaged males. Although Riley claims he did not know the gun was loaded, the two teenagers reminded him that it was and Riley ignored their warning.  

In 1998, a Plymouth County jury found Riley guilty of second-degree murder in Nelson’s death and he was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole. Riley appealed his conviction and filed multiple motions for new trial, all of which were denied. 

On August 13, 2019, Riley, now 50 years old, appeared before the Parole Board for an initial hearing where the Plymouth County District Attorney’s Office spoke in opposition to his parole. On June 22, 2020, the Parole Board issued its unanimous decision denying him parole.

“This defendant executed Mr. Nelson in a manner that can only be described as callous, calculated, senseless, and cruel,” DA Cruz said. “In light of the brutal and senseless nature of this murder, I commend the Parole Board on their thoughtful decision to keep William Riley in prison.”

In the opinion of the Parole Board, Riley “has not demonstrated a level of rehabilitative progress that would make his release compatible with the welfare of society.” The decision also states that, “Mr. Riley has an extremely concerning criminal history, coupled with a poor deportment. It is the opinion of the Board that he has yet to address his causative factors. He should engage in additional treatment and programming to address his propensity for violence, as well as the Sex Offender Treatment Program.”

This past April, Riley petitioned the Commissioner of the Department of Correction for medical parole, citing medical conditions that could put him at increased risk of the COVID-19 virus. His petition was denied without a hearing.

 Riley will be eligible to appear before the Parole Board again in August, 2024, five years after his initial hearing.

JUNE 25, 2020