Boxer Yathomas Riley Charged With Murdering Wife Three Years After Beating Similar Charges in Miami
Yathomas Riley faces murder charges again, three years after beating similar charges in Homestead.
"I had just came in from out of town," Yathomas Riley tells a Lee County, Georgia 911 dispatcher. "And my wife — I don't know what's going on, but she's in a room, and she got blood coming out of her."
A young child screams in the background. It's 8:30 in the morning July 10, and the male dispatcher's voice is gentle and calm. He asks for Riley's location and then asks from where on her body his wife is bleeding.
"She shot herself!" Riley answers.
"Is she conscious?"
"Man, she's out!"
The responder asks Riley to touch his wife, to see if she's cold. Riley says she is.
"What that mean?" he shouts, his voice cracking. "What that mean if her feet is cold?"
Lisa Amodio Riley, a 34-year-old emergency room doctor, was declared dead a few hours later; last week, Riley, a 32-year-old professional boxer from Florida City, was charged with her murder. It wasn't the first time he'd been accused of shooting a partner: Almost exactly five years earlier, Riley, then living in Homestead, was charged with trying to kill on-again, off-again girlfriend Koketia King. This June, just weeks before Amodio's death, cops had picked up the boxer after she'd complained Riley had assaulted her and threatened her with a gun.
The investigation into Amodio's death is ongoing, and many details are unknown. But the story of how Riley was freed in Florida only to later be accused of a similar crime involving a different woman in Georgia is one of corruption, deceit, and official incompetence. It involves a New Times investigation and authorities who may have been overwhelmed by the complexity that makes domestic abuse and murder particularly difficult crimes to prosecute. "Our family is with him," Riley's older brother Julius says. "Don't get me wrong — if he did it, then he deserves everything that's supposed to happen to a person that does something like that."
Riley was raised in a poor area of Florida City, in a family with six boys and three girls. The Rileys were firm Christians; Julius, Yathomas' father, is still a pastor at the Gospel Truth Pentecostal Church in Homestead. Growing up, Yathomas and his brothers often fought in the streets, and Yathomas played point guard for South Dade Senior High School's varsity basketball team. As a teenager, he moved temporarily to Ohio, where his mom lived, and was arrested after falling in with a gang.
In juvenile detention, Riley learned to box. When he got out, he moved back to Florida City and began training seriously. By 2006, when Riley was 23, the agile southpaw had won a Golden Gloves title and had an eye on the 2008 U.S. Olympic team. A couple of years earlier, Riley had met King, a pretty corrections officer, at a family reunion in Perrine, and the two eventually moved in together and had a child. After barely missing the Olympic squad, Riley signed a pro contract and moved to the Bronx to train.
One day at the gym, Riley, six-foot-one and an impressively muscled 185 pounds, met Amodio, a kind, brown-haired young woman who was finishing her residency at nearby St. Barnabas Hospital. The boxer offered to help the medical student work out, and soon the two were dating. During Riley's fights, Amodio even worked as his cut-woman, treating wounds between rounds. In 2009, Riley and Amodio became engaged, but when Riley moved back to South Florida to train for a fight, he stayed in Homestead with King, which galled Amodio. "She didn't want to let him go," Lisa would later say of Riley's staying with King. "And he wanted to see his son."
In Florida, Riley had more brushes with the law. That June, King's 12-year-old daughter told authorities the boxer had fondled her and "began to choke her" when she resisted, according to a police report.
Confronted by police, Riley denied the charges but admitted that on another occasion, he had touched the girl. He claimed the contact was nonsexual, while shaving the area around her vagina. Riley was arrested, but the case was dropped. Investigators concluded the girl was lying — and so did King, who told police her daughter was jealous of the time King was spending with Riley.
King was shot twice in June 2010 but survived. In the hospital, she told authorities Riley had shot her in a jealous rage.
Riley told investigators the two had been arguing because he found evidence King was involved in a tax-fraud scheme involving the prison inmates she guarded. The day of the shooting, Riley confronted King with a letter he had found in her purse. It was from an inmate and contained a social security number disguised as a phone number.
When Riley scolded King, he claimed, she was so distraught that she pulled a Glock from her purse and shot herself in the buttocks to prove she loved him. Riley said she then threatened to kill herself and pointed the gun at her head. Riley lunged to stop her, he said, but was too late. King shot herself again, this time in the head.
After hearing both versions, police arrested Riley. Prosecutors charged him with attempted murder, but the case turned out to be difficult. King gave conflicting statements to authorities. Riley maintained he was innocent, and evidence seemed to back up parts of his version more than hers. By April 2012, when New Times published the first of a series of stories showing contradictions in King's testimony, Riley had spent nearly two years in jail without a trial. (King didn't respond to New Times' requests for comment for the 2012 stories or for this one.)
Prosecutors soon dropped the charges, noting in a closeout memo that King had repeatedly lied to authorities about the tax scam and citing New Times' reporting. But they didn't say Riley was innocent. "Although it is evident that based on the physical evidence, the defendant shot the victim" — that Riley shot King— "the fact that the victim was repeatedly untruthful with both police and prosecutors about a key piece of evidence in the case has fatally crippled the victim's credibility."
Riley is charges with murdering his wife, Lisa Amodio.
via Dougherty County Georgia Corrections
On August 23, 2012, Riley was freed. When he walked out of his jail cell, he let out a flurry of shadow punches — he couldn't wait to get back in the ring.
Within several months, he and Amodio settled into a new life together in Albany, Georgia, a midsize city 150 miles south of Atlanta known for its dense nature trails and charming downtown museums. She took a job as an emergency room physician at the expansive Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital; he continued training and eventually opened a car repair business and then Riley's Boxing Gym, an unassuming space in a strip mall next to a nail salon.
In August 2013, Amodio bought a beige four-bedroom house with a pool on a quiet suburban street in nearby Leesburg for $240,000. The next April, according to Riley's Facebook page, Riley and Amodio married, and in the fall, she gave birth to a boy, Giuseppe. "Introducing my son to this cold world," Riley wrote on his page. "God is good!!!"
Riley also posted pictures and videos of himself boxing, posing with celebrities like Charles Barkley, and firing guns, including a high-powered AR-15 semiautomatic rifle. He also posted a short video of his son crawling and several pictures of Lisa. In one, she wears large dark sunglasses and her hair pulled back tightly as she grins. In another, from this past June 9, husband and wife sit together in the back of Riley's cherry-red 1972 Chevy Caprice convertible. The car is parked on a bridge overlooking a river in the soft evening light; Riley has his right arm wrapped tightly around his wife's shoulder. "This woman is my life," he wrote below the photo. "God is good."
But by early summer, the couple's relationship had frayed, and Riley's behavior was attracting the attention of local authorities. One neighbor, Dave Avera, a retired factory worker, tells New Times the Rileys kept to themselves. Though the couple had lived there almost two years, Avera interacted with Lisa for the first time only a couple months ago, when she was at the mailbox. Avera waved, but she didn't wave back, maintaining a strange, distant expression. "I wondered if she was afraid," Avera says.
On May 25, a few teenagers were leisurely rafting down Muckalee Creek, which runs behind the Rileys' property. At one point, the group of friends got out of the raft and began walking along the creek. Riley, from his backyard, noticed the kids and approached, wielding a gun. After telling them they couldn't pass behind his house, Riley "raised a pistol in the air" and fired four shots, the teenagers said in their police statements. In his statement to authorities, Riley said he warned the kids to "move along"; when one of them walked toward his property again, he said he fired two shots into the ground.
A few weeks later, on June 14 around 8:30 p.m., Riley wound up in police custody after a distressed call from Lisa. That morning, when she had returned from work, Riley had forced her into the bedroom closet, she said. Then he had put a .44 Magnum revolver to her head and questioned her about cheating. She said she had pleaded with her husband not to hurt her, and he had let her go. But several hours later, Riley pulled out another pistol and again put it to her head. Then he moved the gun from her head to his and began crying and screaming. Later that day, she woke up to find her husband next to her in bed, only for him to wrap his legs around her neck and squeeze. Again, he put a pistol to her head.
Lisa called 911 when Riley left the house. She still had red marks on her neck and chest when police showed up. Riley hadn't slept in three days, she said — she thought he was having a breakdown. Riley, after being stopped nearby in the red Caprice, denied there was an argument. He was arrested and charged with battery and three counts of aggravated assault. He was released on $15,000 bond, with conditions that he surrender his firearms and not go within 1,000 feet of Lisa. Days later, she swore in court that she was convinced Riley's behavior stemmed from severe sleep deprivation and requested the no-contact provisions be removed.
The morning of July 10, when Lisa was shot, Riley was still on the phone with a 911 operator when paramedics arrived. "Come on!" he yelled in an urgent tone. "Come on, come on, come on, come on, come on, come on!"
Then a paramedic asked Riley to leave the room.
"For what?" Riley answered.
"Go back out in the hall for me," the paramedic said.
"For what?" Riley repeated.
"Sir, she's dead."
"She's dead!? She's dead!?"
Riley was immediately taken into custody and charged with violating bond conditions of the June 14 assault charges by not having turned in his guns. On July 20, he was charged with murder and aggravated assault. He remains in jail without bond.
After the shooting, at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, where Lisa worked, a memorial book was set out in the cafeteria, next to a photo of her smiling in her white medical coat. Avera, the neighbor, tells New Times that Lisa's parents flew in from New York after their daughter died; they said they plan to take custody of 9-month-old Giuseppe.
Both families are devastated. Julius, Riley's oldest
"It hurts me even to say that I don't know," he says. "I don't know how it went."
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Miami New Times' biggest stories.