Sister suspects share mom's criminal legacy

By LaReeca Rucker

With the name “Patricia” tattooed on her back, Santanya Riley, one of two sisters recently charged with murder and accused of stabbing to death a Canton teen-ager five years ago, carries the name and legacy of her mother.

Patricia Ann Riley, 48, of 240 Hickory Street in Canton, also left her mark Sept. 19, 2003, when she stabbed Canton resident Sharon Wilson in the hand, face and back during an argument about money.

Riley was arrested Dec. 22, 2003, and charged with aggravated assault. She later pleaded guilty to the stabbing, and was ordered to serve 10 years with the Mississippi Department of Corrections. The decade sentence was ultimately suspended, and Riley served five years probation for the crime.

That charge and the murder charge her daughters, Santanya and April Riley, now face is false, Patricia Riley said Tuesday. She believes the court system did not give her a fair shake, and thinks her daughters are also being treated unfairly.

"They aren't the only suspects," said Riley. "There are other folks who are involved. The police won't even talk to me on it. They aren't trying to arrest the other people."

Riley said her daughters are good girls, and the Madison County justice system is flawed.

"They are sweet as gold," she said, speaking of Santanya and April. "They ain't no justice here. They railroaded me, and they are railroading them. They say mine are the only suspects, and they aren't. I want to know why they aren't going after the other suspects involved."

On the same day in 2003 that Patricia Riley stabbed Wilson, court documents show that Riley's daughter, April, the other sister charged with murdering 16-year-old Isisha Blackwell in 1999, was arrested on West Dinkins Street and charged with two counts of simple assault.

April Riley, who is married and worked as a hairdresser, was arrested a month later on West North Street, and charged with two counts of simple assault and one count of assaulting a police officer. She allegedly kicked Canton police officer Jodi Wilson in the chest.

Bond was set at $10,000 for the charge and $500 for the simple assault charges.

Riley was scheduled to appear in Madison County Circuit Court June 20, a month before she and her sister were arrested and charged with murder, but failed to do so.

A bench warrant was issued June 23, and April Riley is now scheduled to appear Sept. 28 or Stewart's bonding company will lose $10,000.

Santanya Riley only has one known prior arrest. She was arrested June 17, 2004, and charged with resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, disobeying a law enforcement officer, and simple assault of a law enforcement officer.

Last week, she was charged with two counts of simple assault in addition to murder. Bond was set at $500 for both simple assault charges and $1 million for the murder charge.

Police say Patricia Riley has a third daughter who has been convicted of an aggravated assault stabbing. Riley's daughter, Stephanie Paige, has served time in Parchman for a stabbing that occurred in Canton.

The Blackwell case remained a mystery for five years until Canton Police Chief Robert Winn opened the file and began reinvestigating the murder. He believes Santanya and April Riley are responsible for the death of Blackwell, a Canton High School ninth-grader found brutally murdered November 1999.

After a brief search for the girls, Winn said the sisters were arrested after an unidentified caller told authorities the girls were riding in a green four-door Buick on Walnut Street.

"When the officer pulled up, they were outside talking to the news media, Channel 16," he said. "At that point, they were apprehended, their rights were read, and they were taken into custody."

John Booze, of 1031 Little Street, was also arrested at the time and charged with aiding and abetting the sisters. Winn said the girls had been living with Booze, and one had a relationship with him.

Last week, Blackwell's father, Calvin Young, said the unsolved murder has been a burden, and he was glad to see the case moving forward after a long stall.

"I always wanted to know who did this before I left the world," he said. "I'm looking for them to get the death penalty. They took somebody from me that I loved."

Blackwell's body was discovered November 1999 alongside railroad tracks next to Nichols Middle School about a half-mile from her 630 W. Dinkins St. home. She had been stabbed 40 times with a screwdriver and knife, and her throat had been slashed, her mother, Evelyn Blackwell, said.

Winn said he isn't positive what the motive was in the case, but suspects jealousy may have been a factor.

"I don't know what the problem was," he said. "It may have had something to do with the fact that both of them (Blackwell and one of the Rileys) had been dating the same guy at one time."

Winn, who became police chief in April of last year, said he studied the case and conducted interviews that led him to the Riley sisters.

"I was able to decide that these two were the prime suspects," he said.

Young said he had heard of the two suspects, but did not personally know them. He said he will remember his daughter as a good girl, who baby-sat neighborhood children.

"My daughter was the type of person who didn't never bother anyone," he said. "I never had a problem with her. She didn't deserve what happened to her."

If you have information about Blackwell's death or about other unsolved murder cases, call the Canton Police Department at 601-859-2121 or CrimeStoppers at 601-355-8477.