Exclusive: Riley Fox's Parents Speak Out After Alleged Killer Found

Mom of murdered 3-year-old says hearing details of murder is "torture."

June 11, 2010, 10:55 AM

June 11, 2010— -- For the parents of Riley Fox, the 3-year-old girl who was abducted and brutally murdered in the small town of Wilmington, Ill., in the summer of 2004, hunting for her killer has been a painful, six-year nightmare.

"Just to hear those words, 'We caught your baby's killer,' it was pretty emotional," said father Kevin Fox in an exclusive interview to air on "20/20."

Riley was kidnapped from the living room of her own home in 2004 and sexually assaulted, bound, gagged with duct tape and drowned. Her body was found face down in a creek in the Forsythe Woods, a public park about two miles from the Fox residence.

As years passed, the Foxes almost lost hope of finding the real killer. When they learned last month that police had tracked down the man believed to be Riley's murderer, Kevin and Melissa Fox were filled with mixed emotions.

"I'm still in shock. I have no words to even explain how I feel. For almost six years you thought this was going to be like a celebration day and it feels quite the opposite," said Kevin Fox.

Scott Eby, a 38-year-old imprisoned sex offender, was charged on five counts of first-degree murder and one count of predatory sexual assault last month after DNA evidence allegedly linked him to Riley. He is expected to plead not guilty.

Putting Eby's face to the long-unsolved mystery brought the Foxes a sense of vindication, but they said it has also been terrorizing to know the grisly details of how their daughter was murdered.

"He stole something very important from the world," said mother Melissa Fox. "I needed to know what happened to her and what she went through, but now it's kind of like torture. Now, it's like I'm torturing myself with those details. It's not at all what I expected."

CLICK HERE to see photos of Riley Fox and to find out details on the murder case

Chilling Details in Riley Fox Murder

The Foxes' attorney, Kathleen Zellner, said Eby confessed to killing Riley after first burglarizing another house on the same block -- an important clue that the Foxes said police at the time ignored.

According to Zellner, Eby cut through the back door of the Fox house, pushed the door in, and saw Riley sleeping on the couch in the living room.

Zellner said Eby formed the intent to kidnap Riley after he saw that her father was asleep. He proceeded to get his car, put her in his trunk and drove to a nearby park, where he assaulted her on the floor of a public restroom.

Compounding their loss is the conviction that there were so many missed opportunities to catch the alleged killer quickly.

"My daughter got raped in a bathroom at Forsythe Woods and they didn't even process that bathroom [for DNA evidence]," Kevin Fox said. "He threw her underwear in a garbage can, and they didn't even search the garbage cans for it. They didn't find it."

Eby was on parole and living about a mile away from the Fox home at the time of Riley's murder. He had no connection to the Fox family, but he has an extensive criminal history, including a separate 2005 charge of criminal sexual assault of a family member, and charges for forgery and a string of burglaries.

For the Foxes, it was shocking to learn that their neighborhood was also home to someone no parent would want near their children.

"I have a new fear that there are people that are capable of doing what he did to her and you don't even know that they're right there. Like that -- that's really scary to me," said Melissa Fox. "She is gone. And there's not this amazing girl here anymore, but there's disgusting people like him here. And that's disappointing."

Prosecutors are assessing whether or not to seek the death penalty.

Authorities initially charged the young girl's father, Kevin Fox, with the murder, based largely on a videotape confession that he'd killed Riley. He spent eight months in prison before he was released and ultimately cleared through DNA evidence.

The family sued the state and won $15 million, which later was reduced to $8.5 million. The state is still appealing the verdict.

After being blamed for her murder, Kevin Fox, the last known adult to see Riley alive, has gone through every parent's worst agony.

"I wish I could have woke up and protected her," he said.

A Tarnished Reputation

Even though Kevin Fox was exonerated by DNA evidence, there were still people in Wilmington, Ill., who thought Fox was guilty.

"I still had people coming up to me and saying I was a child killer, child molester and threatening to shoot me and my dog," Kevin Fox said. "I honestly found out who my real friends were. I thought I had a whole town behind me and it turned out I have not too many."

Melissa Fox recalled a time when a friend of one of their other children was not allowed to have a sleepover at their home.

"That really hurt, that someone didn't trust us with their child," she said.

The suspicion was one of the reasons why the Foxes moved to another Chicago suburb shortly after the civil settlement and began a new life. In March 2006, they welcomed their third child -- a little girl they named Teagan -- into their family.

But with all they endured, the pain of the ordeal took a heavy toll on the high-school sweethearts' marriage. The couple eventually separated.

"It was difficult," Melissa Fox said. "And then having to go through that trial and to relive everything was very, very stressful and difficult on our marriage and our relationship.

"Although I care about Kevin a ton and I support him always and would defend him always," she said, "it just was too much for our marriage to withhold."

Despite their separation, Melissa and Kevin are unified in their love for Riley.

"I just hope people learn from us, that in life you're given some hard things to deal with, and that's part of life," she said. "You just got to learn live with it. And it makes you stronger, for sure."

CLICK HERE to see photos of Riley Fox and to find out details on the murder case

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events