Riley Fox was three years old when she was abducted from her home early in the morning on June 6, 2004, in Wilmington, Illinois. She had been sleeping in the living room and her father, Kevin Fox, woke up to find her gone with the front door and screen open. He searched their home and property and went to his neighbors’ home but there was no sign of Riley.
Kevin Fox contacted the authorities and a search for the young girl began as her mother, Melissa Fox, returned from Chicago where she was participating in a charity walk, court documents reveal. Unfortunately, later that same day, shortly after an Amber Alert was issued, Riley Fox’s body was found. She had been tied with duct tape, sexually assaulted and drowned in a nearby creek.
Authorities first began suspecting Riley’s father Kevin Fox and focused their investigative efforts on him despite other evidence in the case. Fox was eventually charged with first-degree murder and spent several months in jail before getting cleared by DNA evidence, court documents show. It wasn’t until years later, in 2010, that the real perpetrator, convicted sex offender Scott Eby, pleaded guilty.
Riley Fox Was Abducted From Her Home in Wilmington While She Slept on the Living Room Couch
— Kathleen Zellner (@ZellnerLaw) May 5, 2021
According to court documents about the case, Kevin Fox’s wife Melissa was in Chicago for a two-day breast cancer research walk and he had gone out on the evening of June 5, 2004, with his brother-in-law while his mother-in-law watched the two kids at her home.
After his night out, Kevin Fox returned to his mother-in-law’s home to pick up the children and bring them home. His plan was to wake them up early so they could all go to Chicago and cheer on their mother on the charity walk, according to court documents.
Since their bedsheets were still in the dryer, he put the two kids to sleep in the living room, his six-year-old boy on the ottoman and three-year-old Riley on the couch a few feet away. Fox then went to sleep in his bedroom. The following morning, his son woke him up to say that Riley was gone.
As time wore on after Riley’s abduction and murder, the Foxes questioned what was going on with the investigation and cooperated with the requests from authorities. In October 2004, Kevin Fox was charged with his daughter’s first-degree murder after a long interrogation, which he recanted immediately afterward and said he was coerced.
Evidence Found at the Crime Scene Eventually Cleared Kevin Fox & Helped Identify the True Perpetrator
There were certain pieces of evidence that were collected at the crime scene that were not followed up on by investigators, court documents show. Eby had already been imprisoned several times prior to Riley’s murder and when he was released in 2003, his DNA profile was uploaded into the national criminal database.
After Riley’s murder, detectives recovered partial DNA samples from a suspect but since they weren’t full samples they were not automatically entered into the national database. Moreover, after Kevin Fox’s arrest, authorities did not compare his DNA to the suspect’s DNA found at the scene and contacted the FBI to request that they stop testing the DNA found.
It wasn’t until eight months later that Fox’s attorneys were able to get the DNA evidence tested by a private lab, his attorneys said. The results revealed, with 100% certainty, that Kevin Fox was not a match for the DNA found on Riley Fox’s body. The charges against Fox were dropped the very next day and he was released from jail after 243 days.
After several years without a suspect, the FBI took over the investigation and found that a pair of shoes was discovered near Riley Fox’s body with Eby’s name written on them, the Chicago Tribune wrote.
The outlet reported that the shoes were listed second on an evidence list sent to the FBI for testing and were included in a Will County sheriff’s police memo right after Riley Fox’s murder. They also found out that another home on the same block as the Fox home was burglarized the night of Riley’s murder.
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