Riley Fox Murder: How Did She Die? Who Killed Her?

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On June 6, 2004, in a heartless turn of events, 3-year-old Riley Fox was found dead inside a creek in Wilmington, Illinois. An autopsy later revealed that she was assaulted sexually after being bound and gagged by the heartless murderer. Such a heinous and brutal murder had the community shook, and police tried hard to bring the perpetrator to justice. An episode of ABC News’ ‘20/20’ details the cruel murder and how the FBI had to intervene in order to solve the case. If you are curious to know more about this case and the murderer, we have got you covered.

How Did Riley Fox Die?

Riley Fox was a three-year-old child who was the light of her parents’ lives. Born to Kevin and Melissa Fox, she was full of joy and was adored by her whole family. Riley was the youngest child and had an elder brother named Tyler. It was honestly shocking to even think of someone committing such a heinous and brutal crime against a child.

On June 5, 2004, Riley’s mother, Melissa, left her Wilmington home to attend a breast cancer walk in Chicago. The same night, Kevin left his son and his daughter with Melissa’s mother before attending a festival with his friends. Later, Kevin said that he reached home with the kids at 1 am, after which they both went to sleep in the living room. Kevin further claimed that he locked up and fell asleep at around 2:30 am. A few hours later, his son, Tyler, woke Kevin up to inform him that Riley was missing.

Anxious and overtaken with worry, Kevin informed the police before sending word out about Riley’s disappearance. Groups of people formed up and began combing through the city for a sign of the toddler, but to no avail. The police, too, joined the search and broadcasted an amber alert for Riley. In a horrifying turn of events, the police received a tip from a woman searching Forsythe Woods. Acting on her information, the police quickly reached the spot, which was about a mile away from Riley’s home.

There, in a creek, the police found Riley’s body. She was described to be wearing only a t-shirt, and her mouth was taped shut using duct tape. The police also noticed that she had adhesive residue on her hands, which indicated that she was restrained at one point. An autopsy determined that she was sexually assaulted before being drowned to death. The police recovered the body and collected DNA samples from her. Strangely, the lab did not find any foreign DNA on her, but they did find traces of saliva in her vagina.

Who Killed Riley Fox?

Scott Eby, a registered sexual offender, was convicted of Riley’s murder in 2010. Initially, the police investigated Kevin as he was the last person to see his daughter alive. Kevin told the police that he was asleep all night and had no involvement in the crime. Still, the police weren’t convinced and, in what was reported to be a coerced and controversial interrogation by Chicago Magazine, questioned Tyler about that night. The young boy was overwhelmed and gave inconclusive answers, which seemingly made the police suspect Kevin further.

Moreover, reports mention that Kevin and his family were seen going out on vacations and buying a new car, which helped the case against them. Even though Kevin’s family claimed that he helped the investigation in every way, by late 2004, Kevin was the only suspect the police could tie to the crime. Five months after Riley’s murder, the police reported that Kevin had confessed to drowning his daughter alive. Family and relatives opposed vehemently to this statement as the Kevin they knew was a dedicated and loving father. According to ABC News, that confession was coerced.

Kevin was arrested in late 2004 and stayed in jail for eight months; his attorney sent the crime scene DNA for further testing. Once the results came back, it was clear that Kevin’s DNA was not a match with the one found at the scene of the murder. Thus, Kevin was finally freed, and he was given $15.5 million (later reduced to $8.5 Million) to make up for the ordeal he had to go through. From 2005 to 2009, the Wilmington police did not find any informative leads that could lead them to the murderer. In 2009, the FBI stepped in, determined to find Riley’s killer.

During their initial investigation, the FBI came across a woman who claimed that her ex-boyfriend, Scott Eby, had behaved strangely when asked about the murder. When the FBI questioned Scott, he was incarcerated on an unrelated sexual assault charge. He denied any involvement with the crime, but immediately after, Scott told his mother, over a recorded prison phone call, that he might be put away for life. Furthermore, the FBI was notified a few days later that Scott had tried to commit suicide and had confessed the murder through a letter.

With Scott now a person of interest in the crime, his DNA was tested against the crime scene DNA, and it turned out to be a match. The FBI then brought Scott in for questioning, and this time, he confessed to killing Riley. He said that he was burglarizing the neighboring home and was escaping through the Foxes’ living room when he noticed Riley sleeping. He confessed to kidnapping her and sexually assaulting her before drowning her to death. With a confession on their hands, the FBI was finally able to deliver a sense of closure to Riley’s family.

Read More: Where is Melissa Fox Now?