Riley Fox (March 31, 2001 – June 6, 2004) was a three-year-old American girl who was reported missing in Wilmington, Illinois. Later that same day the girl was found dead in Forsythe Woods County Forest Preserve, a public park that was just a few miles from the family’s residence. The girl was found in the park, face down in a creek. She had been bound, gagged, and sexually assaulted and then drowned. Riley Fox’s father was initially the prime suspect, but Scott Eby, a returning citizen who was on parole for previous crimes, was ultimately convicted for Fox’s rape and murder. The night of the disappearance, Kevin, Riley’s father, had picked up his kids from their grandmother’s house around 1 A.M.. Too tired to carry his children up to bed, he laid Riley Fox down on the couch and Tyler, Riley’s older brother, down on the living room chair. He then went to his room, watched TV and went to bed around 2:30, according to his statements to police. The next morning, Kevin Fox was awakened by Tyler, who informed him that Riley was gone, Kevin searched the entire house for Riley. He noticed that the front door and screen door were open. Kevin went next door to a friend of Riley’s to see if they had seen the little girl. When the neighbors had not seen Riley, he then called the police.
Kevin Fox, the girl’s father, was initially charged in the young girl’s murder, based almost solely on a videotaped confession that he had killed Riley. He spent eight months in prison before he was cleared of all charges due to DNA evidence that did not match his and the confession was ruled out based on coercion. Fox’s attorney Kathleen Zellner was responsible for discovering that DNA evidence existed and getting the State to test it. The killer left a pair of mud-covered shoes at Forsythe Woods County Forest Preserve, which were collected by police. But the police never followed up on this piece of evidence. The shoes had the name Eby written on the inside, the last name of the actual culprit. They overlooked many other important case facts as well. The same night as Riley’s abduction, another house on the same block was burglarized. The Fox family later sued the Will County detectives. Kathleen Zellner, the Foxes’ attorney, won a $15.5 million jury verdict in a federal civil rights lawsuit. The verdict was later reduced to $8.5 million, which is still the highest verdict in the U.S. for 8 months of incarceration.
Scott Eby was later charged on five counts of first-degree murder and one count of predatory sexual assault after DNA evidence linked him to Riley. By the time the police caught up with Eby to charge him in connection with Riley’s murder, he was serving two consecutive seven-year sentences. Eby later confessed to killing Riley after first breaking into another home on the same block as the Foxes’. Eby said he cut through the back screen door of the home and then pushed the door in. He found Riley lying on the couch and decided to kidnap her when he saw that her father was asleep. He said that he put Riley into his car and drove her to the park where he assaulted her on the floor of a restroom in the park. Then he killed her by drowning her in a nearby creek within the park. He subsequently pleaded guilty to Riley’s murder and received a life sentence without the possibility of parole. Scott Eby was on parole and lived only about a mile from the Foxes’ home at the time of Riley’s murder.
- March, 31, 2001
- June, 06, 2004
- Wilmington, Illinois
Cause of Death