An imprisoned sex offender has been charged in the 2004 slaying of 3-year-old Riley Fox, who was abducted and found dead in the small town of Wilmington, Ill., about 60 miles southwest of Chicago.
Scott Eby, 38, was charged on five counts of first degree murder and one count of predatory sexual assault Thursday in the long-unsolved murder.
Eby was sent to prison for a 2005 charge of criminal sexual assault, according to the Illinois sex offender registry, and has an extensive criminal history, including forgery and a string of burglaries. He has been in and out of prison since 1988.
He was on parole when Riley Fox was slain and murdered, according to Will County State's Attorney James Glasgow, who announced the charges against Eby.
"I have never dealt with a case this heart-wrenching," Glasgow said at a press conference. "While nothing can bring back Riley Fox, we hope that the events that led to today can bring some closure to the family."
Fox's murder was a gruesome crime that rocked the Rust Belt community. Search volunteers found Riley's body face-down in a creek in the Forsythe Woods, about a two-and-a-half miles from the Fox residence.
Authorities initially charged the young girl's father, Kevin Fox, with the murder, based largely on a videotape confession that he'd killed Riley.
According to the investigators, Kevin Fox said he woke up in the middle of the night went to the bathroom, where he accidentally hit Riley with the door, causing her to stumble and hit her head on the bathtub. Thinking he'd accidentally killed her, he panicked and supposedly did something to make it look like she was sexually assaulted.
Investigators said he put duct tape over Riley's mouth, drove her in his car to the river, walked down the side of a small bridge and dumped her into the river.
Fox spent eight months in prison before he was released and ultimately cleared through DNA evidence. DNA analysis from the same lab that cleared Kevin Fox definitively cleared Patsy and John Ramsey in the notorious murder of their daughter, Jon Benet.
The Fox family maintained that Kevin Fox was coerced into confessing and that investigators were out to convict him from the beginning. In a civil rights case against Will County, a jury awarded Kevin Fox and his wife Melissa a multi-million dollar settlement.
At today's press conference, Glasgow said that the Fox case must become an example for law enforcement.
"What I'm hoping to do is get Kevin Fox to cooperate with law enforcement and study that: What is-was about his personality that let him make the statements he made?" Glasgow said. "We need to make sure that this is part of a case study where everyone across the country learns from this."
Kathleen Zellner, who took on Kevin Fox's case and is now an attorney for the Foxes, said the family is thankful a suspect has been charged.
"Kevin and Melissa Fox are grateful for the tremendous work that was done by the FBI Special Agents Lori Warner, Jeremy Resar, Will County State's Attorney James Glasgow and his investigators that has resulted in the apprehensions of the true killer of their daughter Riley," Zellner said in a statement. "Finally, there can be justice for Riley."