It turns out DNA from the crime scene doesn't match the man they had in jail. Kevin Fox is free after prosecutors concede there is now considerable doubt about his guilt.
"It was a nightmare, and I don't want to relive it right now. I'm happy. I'm excited," said Fox.
Will County Prosecutor James Glasgow and Sheriff Paul Kaupas dropped the charge, but offered no apology and few answers about why law enforcement was so convinced Fox was their man.
"I never expected the DNA result to come back in this fashion. We were shocked at the result," said Jim Glasgow, Will County state's attorney.
Riley Fox's body was found in a shallow Will County creek a day after her disappearance. DNA evidence found on duct tape went largely untested for a full year. The DNA was shipped to the FBI's testing facility on June 14 of last year.
Some time between February and April of this year, local authorities realized the backlogged FBI still hadn't examined the DNA. They asked for it back, and in April, sent it to a private lab. Test results arrived Thursday night. The DNA did not match Kevin Fox's.
"I have an ethical obligation when I see something and I know that I can't prove it, I can't go forward, even if it is against my own self-interest," said Glasgow.
"Do the test before you make the arrest because this saliva was on the DNA sample on June 8 -- June 8. He has been in prison eight months," said Kathleen Zellner, Fox's attorney.
In Fox's hometown Friday night, there were countless questions about the conduct of law enforcement. Kevin Fox has long maintained sheriff's investigators threatened him into giving a false confession.
In October, 2004, the sheriff responded to those claims:
"I have all the confidence in the investigators and the detectives that worked on this case and in the interview process, so basically that is a role we'll let the court decide what occurred," said Will County Sheriff Paul Kaupas, October 2004.
Despite the incident, police say they hope the Fox family will help them in the pursuit of Riley's killer.
"What am I going to do tonight? Spend a night with my wife and son," Kevin Fox said after being released.
The Will County sheriff seems content to blame former Will County state's attorney Jeff Tomczak for any missteps. All the investigators who originally looked into the murder have reportedly been reassigned.
A private lab continues to look at DNA, comparing it to names in a national criminal database to see if that helps generate any new leads
Kevin Fox's neighbors reacted with joy at his release, anger at the ordeal he went through and concern that Riley Fox's killer is still on the loose.
Many residents said they never believed Kevin Fox -- who they say is a nice, family man -- could take his daughter's life. They hope police catch the real murderer and are glad Kevin Fox is home.
"We've all supported him, and there's a lot of people that never deviated from their belief that he was innocent," said Christie Ziller, family friend.
"I've seen him with his children. I've seen him with his family. I know his grandparents, and we've been excellent neighbors and good friends," said Janet May, Fox's neighbor.
"The community wants the real murderer found. It's as simple as that," said Tom Ziller, Fox family friend.
Many people Friday said they are glad Kevin Fox is home to spend Fathers Day with his wife and son.