QUEENSBURY — The Glens Falls man who stabbed a mother and her young daughter to death last summer pleaded guilty Thursday to all of the charges against him, agreeing to serve up to 44-years-to-life in state prison.
Bryan M. Redden pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, counts of second-degree murder and lesser charges for the Aug. 11 killings of Crystal L. Riley, 33, and her 4-year-old daughter, Lilly Frasier, in their South Street, Glens Falls apartment.
He admitted he slit both of their throats with a kitchen knife, speaking hurriedly as he answered Warren County Judge John Hall’s questions but showing no emotion.
Redden, 21, pleaded guilty with the understanding that Hall will impose a maximum of 44-to-life, but he and his defense attorney, Martin McGuinness, can lobby for a lesser term. He is to be sentenced March 8 and is being held in Warren County Jail without bail.
Twenty or so family and friends of the victims were in court for the guilty pleas. Some were in tears as Redden explained how he committed the homicides. They had no comment after the hearing.
Redden admitted stealing electronics and Riley’s vehicle after the killings, pleading guilty to eight felony charges in all. He was arrested several hours after the early morning slayings, driving Riley’s Toyota Highlander on Bay Street in Glens Falls.
Warren County District Attorney Jason Carusone said his office has not made any plea offer in the case, and he declined to say what sentence his office would seek. He said the killings were “devastating” for the family, but would not get into what authorities believe triggered the attacks.
“To me, I can’t think of any motive that makes sense of what happened,” he said.
Police have said Redden told them he had been involved in an intimate relationship with Riley, but her family did not know him to be involved in her life. While he confessed to numerous police officers and friends that he killed Riley and her daughter, police have said he did not explain what precipitated the unthinkable violence.
A Glens Falls woman who told reporters she was a friend of Redden’s and attended the hearing, said he had told her he had been involved with Riley. Lana VanGundy said the violence was “very out-of-character” for Redden, who she had seen interact with her child and had no concerns about.
She said Redden told her he didn’t remember what happened at Riley’s house, and that he had used heroin and cocaine.
“He told me that when he went to her house he was high,” she said. “They had an altercation, he doesn’t remember what happened. He remembered the knife, but doesn’t remember after that. He said he snapped out of it and the bodies were there.”
Riley was a mother of three who worked at a pre-school in Glens Falls. Her two other children were not at her home when she and her daughter were killed.
Redden was a carnival rides worker from West Virginia who stayed in the region after coming here in the summer of 2016 for a county fair. The two had been involved in a short-term romantic relationship, police said. Redden had been staying at a variety of homes in the region in the months before the killings and working at several local restaurants.
His lawyer, Martin McGuinness last fall notified the Warren County District Attorney’s Office last November that he may use “psychiatric” evidence on his client’s behalf, if the case went to trial. He said a defense of “not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect” was being researched.
He did not elaborate, but a copy of the notice he filed indicated he may have pursued a defense that Redden was under the influence of an “extreme emotional disturbance” and had used cocaine and alcohol before the deaths. He told police he had used heroin before the killings as well, according to court records.
If successful, an “insanity defense” would result in a jury finding that Redden was not guilty of the crimes because he lacked the capacity to know or appreciate either the nature and consequences of his actions or that they were wrong.
He would be confined to a secure mental institution indefinitely if found not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect.
An extreme emotional disturbance defense, if successful, could have resulted in the jury finding Redden committed manslaughter instead of murder.
Redden has suffered from bipolar disorder, “oppositional defiant disorder” and attention deficit and hyperactive disorder, and has been medicated for these conditions, according to court records.
He told Hall on Thursday that he was willing to forego those possible psychiatric defenses and plead guilty.
McGuinness said he had no comment pending sentencing.
Redden could face up to life in prison without the possibility of parole for his plea to first-degree murder, but Hall told him he would allow him to withdraw his guilty pleas if he decides a sentence longer than 44-to-life is warranted.
Photographer Jenn March contributed to this report.
A January thaw accompanied by rain is not the weather forecast that the Warren County Office of Emergency Services wanted to hear.
The extreme cold of the last few weeks has created a massive amount of river ice so far this winter, and temperatures that could top 50 degrees combined with up to 2 inches of rain could cause significant ice jam problems on rivers like the Hudson and Schroon. Power outages from freezing rain, ice and heavy, wet snow are also possible.
Warren County Emergency Services Director Brian LaFlure said his staff has been working with the National Weather Service in recent days to watch the Hudson for problem spots, and there appeared to be potential ice jams around the usual problem spots near The Glen and River Road in Chester.
He said his office’s emergency coordinator, Amy Hirsch, planned to tour the upper Hudson with National Weather Service staff on Thursday.
“There is a lot of ice,” he said. “We’ll know more after they do a drive around to some areas later today (Thursday).”
“The weather service is saying we could get up to three inches of rain. It’s going to depend on a lot of things, how much rain we get, how warm it gets whether the ice moves,” LaFlure added.
The concern is that the ice moves and blocks the river’s channel in places, causing water to back up and the river to jump its banks. The Hudson between Warrensburg, Thurman and North Creek has seen a number of major ice jams over the past few decades, several of them during January thaws/rain storms.
One in March 2011 caused numerous evacuations in Johnsburg and Chester, while roads have been closed for weeks when huge chunks of ice flow out of the river.
Glen Gosnell, Washington County’s director of public safety, said his office has been monitoring the Mettawee River and Batten Kill, but hadn’t heard of any potential problem spots. The Hoosic River sometimes has ice jam problems as well.
“We haven’t heard of any concerns so far,” he said.
He said he was in North River near the Hudson earlier this week, and saw a huge volume of ice, though.
“That ice is 10 feet deep in places,” Gosnell said.
Much of the region will see a wide variety of weather over the next couple of days as a major storm moves into the Northeast.
A flood watch is in effect for the region from Friday morning through Saturday morning, with possible ice jams on some rivers as temperatures rise into the 50s and one to three inches of rain falls.
Cold weather will move in for the tail end of the storm, and the National Weather Service has issued a winter storm watch for Warren and northern Washington counties and a storm warning for Hamilton and Essex counties from 7 p.m. Friday to 7 p.m Saturday. Up to 10 inches of snow could fall in northern and western areas once the rain changes to snow.
The Glens Falls region should see two to five inches of snow by early Saturday as well as freezing rain as temperatures stay warmer than areas to the north. Colder temperatures will move in for Sunday, with teens likely as a high.