An appeals court agreed with a federal jury’s 2007 finding that Will County Police framed Kevin Fox for the rape and murder of his 3-year-old daughter Riley Fox, but reduced the damages awarded to Fox and his wife from $12.2 million to $8 million.
The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals chastised the investigators on the case, implying that their decision to quickly rule out Riley’s 2004 death as the work of a sexual predator was “absurd.” The Foxes always maintained that a stranger had come into the house and abducted Riley while Fox was asleep. Police told Fox that Riley’s injuries were minor hence denying a “real” sexual predator could have been responsible for Riley’s murder. However, “at trial the pathologist flatly denied ever characterizing Riley’s sexual injuries as minor. He testified that her injuries would have been severe for an adult woman and were absolutely at the top of the scale for a small child.”
The court, in a 52-page decision by Judge Terence Evans, also found that detectives lacked probable cause to arrest Fox using the “exceedingly weak evidence” they had assembled.
Fox was arrested four months after the death of his daughter, who was sexually assaulted, bound with duct tape, and drowned in a Wilmington creek. Fox gave police a videotaped confession that he said was fabricated. The videotape was not shown during the civil trial. If you read the Judge’s decision you will find a lot of abusive language and threats. Here is an example taken from the judge’s decision:
“Back in the interrogation room, Hayes told Kevin that if he did not admit to killing Riley, he would fill out the arrest form for first-degree murder. Hayes then said that he knew people in prison and would make sure that other inmates raped Kevin every day. He started filling out the arrest form for first-degree murder, while Guilfoyle started banging handcuffs on the table in front of him, screaming at him, and calling him a “pussy.” Hayes repeated the rape threat several times and led Kevin to believe he was being charged with first-degree murder.
Hayes and Guilfoyle left the room and Ruettiger and another detective, David Dobrowski, entered. Kevin was crying, and Dobrowski started rubbing his back in a way Kevin perceived as sexually threatening. Ruettiger, who was sitting opposite Kevin, told him that his story was “bullshit” and tried to degrade him by moving his chair closer and closer until Ruettiger’s testicles were pushed against Kevin’s knee. Kevin interpreted this as a message that the rape threats were real. Ruettiger told Kevin that his family had abandoned him and that Melissa would marry someone else who would raise Tyler. Kevin continued to deny any involvement in Riley’s death.”
After this, they showed Fox photographs of his child’s assaulted and bonded body, full rigor mortis set in. Seeing the photographs and exhausted after 14 hours of interrogation, Kevin Fox broke down and said everything police wanted to hear. Shortly after, Edward Hayes, the detective supervisor, called the FBI and told them to stop testing DNA evidence, trial evidence showed. Testing by a private lab later ruled out Fox as a suspect, and he was released in 2005 after eight months behind bars.
In a statement, the Will County State’s Attorney’s Office said it was pleased that the damages were reduced but “firmly” believes the deputies had probable cause to arrest Fox and should not be liable for any damages. The police were suspicious because they didn’t believe the house showed any signs of forced entry and what were the odds, they wondered, that an intruder would be able to get access to the house while Fox was asleep, on a rare night when his wife wasn’t home? Police were also suspicious of the fact that 40 minutes had elapsed between the time Fox said he learned Riley was missing and the moment he called police. Fox said he simply didn’t consider the possibility that his daughter had been abducted and didn’t realize it was an emergency until he’d done some searching around the house.
This case reminds me of what happened to Richard Lapointe when he was interrogated for more than nine hours without legal assistance. Remember that Lapointe has Dandy Walker Syndrome. He gave police four confessions that contradicted the crime scene, all evidence, and logic. Lapointe is serving life inprisonment. Read about him here in the post “Who really killed Mrs. Bernice Martin?”
No other arrests have been made in either the Martin or Fox case. The latter is still being handled by Will County police with the help from the FBI. Should you have any information about the Riley Fox case, please contact the Will County Sheriff’s Office at 1-815.727.8575 or contact your local FBI Office.