Fox murder suspect already behind bars

Scott Eby

June 2, 2010 11:15:47 AM PDT
A convicted sex offender who is serving time for another case has been charged in the 2004 murder of 3-year-old Riley Fox.

Will County State's Attorney James Glasgow formally announced five counts of first degree murder and one count of predatory sexual assault against Scott Eby, 38, on Thursday afternoon at the Will County office building in Joliet. Bond was denied for Eby in the case.

Eby is a convicted sex offender with a long criminal record. He has been behind bars since 2005 serving a 14-year sentence in connection to a criminal sexual assault. He is currently in the custody of the Department of Corrections, Glasgow said. He was on parole when Riley Fox was murdered and lived just 10 blocks from the Fox family's Wilmington home. Read Eby's inmate profile on IDOC website.

Riley disappeared in June 2004 from her Wilmington home while her father and brother slept. Her partially clad body was found in Forked Creek near the Forsythe Woods Forest Preserve that same day.

The FBI became involved in the case about a year ago. That involvement helped lead to Eby's arrest.

"It took about a year of very diligent and tedious work. It's not like television where the next day they've got the suspect. It was just dogged determination by the agents in the field to make this happen," said Glasgow. "Methodical. Paperwork. If they ever videotaped this for a TV show, no one would watch. It would be boring. But the end result cannot be denied."

Police originally focused on girl's father

Glasgow said he cannot release details in the case against Eby, but said it would not be the same situation as it was in 2004 when Kevin Fox, Riley's father, spent 8 months in jail after being wrongly accused in the crime, to which he reportedly confessed. He was cleared by DNA tests.

"There is no evidence of any kind that will connect Kevin Fox to this murder of his 3-year-old daughter," said Glasgow. "We have no evidence to show (Eby) knew Kevin Fox or Kevin Fox knew him."

When asked if he felt he should apologize for the wrongful accusation, Glasgow said, "I don't believe I need to apologize, I'm the one who dismissed that case."

Glasgow said he hopes Fox will help law enforcement agencies learn more about false confessions.

"You've never been privy to them. And maybe at some point that tape will be released. But they were significant, let me just tell you that," said Glasgow. "Most prosecutors would have been hard-pressed to not file charges after viewing that videotape of Kevin Fox's statement. Now, in light of everything we know, he was making admissions that were not true. We've gotta find out why that happened."

After Kevin was cleared by DNA tests, the Fox family began campaigning for faster DNA testing for cases involving slain children. The bill is commonly referred to as "Riley's Law."

In 2007, the Fox family was awarded $15.5 million in a civil suit with Will County authorities.

Kevin Fox's brother Chad says his family is thrilled to finally have a suspect behind bars.

"If Kevin could trade anything to have what happened today, he would definitely do that," said Chad Fox."Extremely happy for Riley. She's finally getting justice. And Kevin's going to hopefully be getting some apologies and the family has a little bit of closure."

Kathleen Zellner who represented Kevin Fox in 2007 believed in his innocence all along.

"Tremendous relief. We're so grateful that these FBI agents caught this person. But there's a sadness with it because we know now what actually happened to Riley. It's very difficult for her parents to hear that," said Zellner.

Wilmington-area residents respond to charges in Riley Fox case

The murder case has been very emotional over the past six years for the Fox family and for residents of the Wilmington area.

Police in Wilmington never considered Scott Eby a suspect during their initial investigation. It was a tip that led investigators to look at him and to compare DNA samples with his in the last couple of weeks.

Wilmington is a small community, a tightly knit place where everyone seems to know everyone else. Mike Bell has known the Fox family for years. He helped search for Riley Fox the day she turned up missing.

"That tore this town apart. It is hard to understand-- small towns, we look out for each other," said Bell.

It was a crime that caused heartache and controversy in Wilmington. Riley's father Kevin spent eight months in jail accused of the murder before DNA results excluded him as a suspect. He later won a civil suit against the county, but the mystery about who the real killer was persistent until the charges filed against 38-year-old Scott Eby.

The Eby family, at the time, lived in a house about 10 blocks away from the Fox home where Riley was kidnapped from in 2004. Eby has a long criminal record, mostly for burglary, but is currently serving time for a sexual assault that happened about a year after Riley Fox's murder.

"I feel safer knowing that he is off the streets, that's for sure," said Jacob Pitts, Wilmington resident.

The town of Wilmington has dedicated a park in Riley Fox's memory called Riley's Garden. The lack of conviction in her murder had left many residents frightened and uneasy. Now, they are relieved.

"I can't imagine how he felt having these fingers pointed at him. It's just a big relief. He was looking for homes to burglarized," said Jacob Mack.

Prosecutors say there is no evidence that Scott Eby, the suspect, knew Kevin Fox or that Kevin knew Scott Eby. They also say, for the first time, they can proclaim Kevin Fox is completely innocent. They say it was quite an emotional meeting they had with him and his wife Melissa Thursday afternoon.

Timeline of major developments in the Riley Fox case:

  • June 6, 2004: After an intensive search, Riley Fox' body is found that afternoon in a nearby creek.
  • October 27, 2004: Kevin Fox is arrested and accused of killing his daughter.
  • June 17, 2005: Fox is released after DNA evidence excludes him as the killer. Eventually he and his wife are awarded millions of dollars after they accuse investigators of fabricating evidence.

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