Slain Merced brothers to be remembered at 14th annual walk for victims of violence

Shawn Jansen/

Merced community members are poised to gather Oct. 8 for the annual walk around the Loughborough area together in remembrance of two local brothers and others like them who lost their lives to violence.

The upcoming march commemorates the 14th year of the Annual Riley Brothers Victims Remembrance Walk. The walk will commence at noon Oct. 8 in the FoodMaxxx parking lot at West Olive and Meadows avenues.

This year also marks 14 years and a day since Michael Riley was killed on Oct. 7, 2008. His violent death followed by that of his brother, Marlis Riley, less than a year later sparked the first annual walk that has since become a Merced tradition.

Marylene Riley, mother to the Riley brothers, started the annual walk with the intention of keeping her sons’ names and legacies alive.

The remembrance event has since expanded to recognize other victims who lost their lives to violent crime, as well as their friends and families who live on without them.

“It started out with my sons, but it’s not just about my sons. It’s about our community at large,” Riley told the Sun-Star. “I want us, as a community, to come together and feel that unity with one another.”

Riley encourages other victims’ loved ones to participate in the walk and share the names of their deceased friends and family. The remembrance walk route is often adjusted to include stops at sites in the Loughborough area where others have lost their lives.

“It’s all about acknowledging loved ones, keeping their memories alive,” Riley said.

The goal of the remembrance walk is to create a space of care, concern and respect among community members, and encourage attendees to connect with each other, Riley said. Another intention is to bring recognition and awareness to violent crime cases that still haven’t been solved in Merced.

The crowd varies each year, ranging from an intimate crowd of 40 to as many as 120 attendees during past walks, Riley estimates.

The march always starts at the FoodMaxxx parking lot, makes a circle in the Loughborough area, and ends back at the same parking lot.

The route follows the sites where the Riley brothers were killed less than a year apart, and makes visits to any other scenes of violent crimes when requested by loved ones in attendance. The group prays, sings songs and releases balloons in acknowledgment of the deceased.

Riley said its hard to believe it has been over a decade since she lost her sons. “We love our children, they’re part of us,” she said. “When they go, we go.”

Memories of her sons

Riley remembers Michael as an old soul who saw the good in everybody. He was a Navy veteran and an honors student at Merced College with ambitions to someday give back to his community through pro bono legal work.

Marlis too was pursuing his educational aspirations, with dreams of eventually working with and mentoring youth when he was killed. His friends and family knew him as the happy and energetic life of the party, Riley said.

Both brothers were people-oriented members of the Merced community who knew and got along with just about everybody, Riley said.

Michael died from a gunshot wound the night of Oct.7, 2008, near the sidewalk outside the Village Meadows Apartments, in the 1100 block of Loughborough Drive. Marlis Riley, 27, suffered fatal injuries during a fight in an alleyway near Denver Avenue on Sept.12, 2009.

In 2018, an arrest was made in Michael’s unsolved slaying, but the charges were later dropped.

Marlis’s killers also saw their murder charges dropped when they pleaded no contest to involuntary manslaughter and were sentenced to four years in prison.

Although Riley still doesn’t feel her sons have received the justice they deserve, she said she is hopeful that someday they will. “Because of my faith in Christ, I say somethings going to happen.” she said. “But I’d like to see it while I’m here.”