By Bruce Fischer
Riley Fox was sexually assaulted, bound with duct tape, and drowned in a creek in Wilmington, Illinois. She was three years old at the time of her death. Months went by with no breaks in the case. Suspicion hung over her family as time went by. The media played a role in this suspicion. Amy Jacobson reported on the case for Channel 5 News in Chicago. In her report, she gave credibility to the rumors that were spreading throughout the community. Riley’s parents, Kevin and Melissa Fox, were being watched very closely during this time. They were observed taking two vacations and purchasing a new vehicle. Rumors spread that they were spending money donated to help find Riley’s killer.
None of the rumors turned out to be true. The two trips were taken to attend weddings that had been planned and paid for long before Riley was murdered. Riley’s mom, Melissa, had traded in her car because she couldn’t bear how it reminded her of Riley. But by the time the truth was reported, it was too late: the damage had been done. Jacobson would later say that she regretted running the story, but the station insisted that it be aired.
After five months had passed, Riley’s father, Kevin Fox, was brought in for questioning. After an all-night interrogation, he confessed to the crime. He would quickly retract his confession, but it was too late. The details of his interrogation are disturbing. According to an article in Chicago magazine, the interrogator told Fox that he knew people at the jail, and would make sure that Kevin was “fucked” every day unless he told them what they wanted to hear. Fox was shown pictures of his dead daughter. The interrogator told Fox, “Riley is in the room with you right now; she is in pain and needs closure.”
Fox was told that the State’s Attorney was offering a deal. He was told he could admit to the crime but say that it was an accident. He could take the deal or spend the rest of his life in prison. He was told the sentence would be three to five years and he would be out in half of that time. At that point, Fox had been awake over twenty-four hours and had been subjected to over twelve hours of questioning. He was exhausted and could no longer continue. He figured if he took the deal and ended the interrogation, he would be able to get out of that room and set the record straight. This is not uncommon after long interrogations. Many innocent people have signed confessions due to severe exhaustion. Of course, Fox was lied to: there was never any deal coming from the State’s Attorney. Fox was facing first-degree murder with the possibility of the death penalty.
Many believe that the State’s Attorney played a role in the arrest of Kevin Fox. Jeffery Tomczak was in a heated battle for re-election and solving this case would bring him much-needed press. Tomczak claimed that politics played no role in Fox’s arrest. Nothing was ever proven, but many continue to remain suspicious of Tomczak. In my opinion, his true character was shown when he attempted to smear Fox’s reputation in the press with a campaign of misinformation. Apparently, voters weren’t too fond of Tomczak either because he lost his re-election bid.
As Fox sat in prison, the investigation of Riley’s murder continued. DNA testing ruled out Fox. With no solid evidence linking Fox to the crime, the new State’s Attorney was faced with going to trial based solely on the signed confession or releasing Fox. Fox was released eight months after he was taken into custody. Not only did he lose his daughter, he now had to deal with many people who believed in his guilt. This is a natural consequence of a wrongful accusation. Many will forever believe the accusation no matter what information to the contrary.
The man responsible for this horrible crime is now in custody. I hope the Fox family will be able to find some closure. In November 2010, Scott Eby pleaded guilty to the sexual assault and murder of three-year-old Riley Fox.