Tag Archives: Child murder

#CrimeTime ~ 20/20 ~ “The Accused” – #AHAgrp #Blog #CrimeTime

#CrimeTime with Alicia Dean ~ 

I love watching true crime shows…as long as they are about murder…, and I watch them every night. (Since I write suspense, thriller, and mystery, it’s not a waste of time…it’s research, right? 🙂 Each week, I blog about some of the recent episodes I’ve seen and I’d love to know your thoughts. (this is a 20/20 episode, rather than an Investigation Discovery episode)

One of my short stories, Blood and Breakfast, is about a crime junkie who gets a little closer to murder than she anticipated. You can buy the Kindle version here for only $1.99 Blood and Breakfast – It’s also part of a print book with 6 other scary stories: A Collection of Friday the 13th Stories

20/20, “The Accused”

Wilmington, Illinois – June 6, 2004

On the weekend of June 6, 2004, Melissa Fox and a group of friends participated in the AVON Walk for Breast Cancer in Chicago, where she stayed for two nights. Her husband, Kevin, stayed home with her son, Tyler and her three-year-old daughter, Riley.  Riley was a beautiful, happy, cherished toddler, who was especially close to her daddy.

Early Sunday morning, Tyler woke up Kevin to tell him that Riley was missing. Thinking she had to be somewhere nearby, Kevin searched the house and yard. After 30 to 40 minutes, Kevin called the non-emergency number for police. He reported finding his front door open and Riley’s yellow blanket still on the couch, where she had been sleeping.

Melissa called in to check on the kids, and Kevin told her Riley was missing.

“He sounded so startled. I knew immediately something was wrong,” Melissa said. “He just said, ‘Riley’s gone,’ and I immediately hit the ground and the phone fell out of my hand.”

Melissa hurried back home. Word of Riley’s disappearance had spread and multiple search parties were out looking for her.

After several hours, the police separated Melissa and Kevin into two different police cars. Melissa had no idea what was going on. What she didn’t know, what neither of them knew, was that volunteers had found little Riley’s body in Forked Creek.

The baby was lying face down in the water wearing only a shirt. Duct tape covered her mouth and there was duct tape residue on her wrists, indicating she’d been bound. An autopsy later determined she’d been drowned and sexually assaulted.

From that moment forward, Melissa never stepped foot in the house where Riley had disappeared from again.

A pair of adult tennis shoes were found in the water nearby. On the tongue were three letters, EBY. Police never followed up on those shoes. Additionally, there was a break-in reported at the house next to the Foxes’. That was also never followed up on nor connected.

At Riley’s funeral a few days later, attendees wore pink, the little girl’s favorite color. Nearly 6,000 people attended.

Police focused their investigation on Kevin as Riley’s killer.  After the funeral, police came to Melissa’s house and asked her if she thought Kevin was capable of doing this. She immediately said, “No.”

Almost three weeks after Riley’s murder, the detectives asked to speak to Riley’s brother, six-year-old Tyler. Melissa and Kevin agreed.

For over an hour, a forensic interviewer questioned Tyler about Riley’s disappearance. On a videotaped recording, Tyler was seen crouching into his chair, covering his face and crying while the interviewer questioned him. He told the interviewer 168 times that his father had nothing to do with the disappearance of his little sister. When Melissa saw the recording later date, she was distressed. She only allowed her son to be questioned because she trusted the detectives. She had no idea he’d be treated in such a manner.

Months went by with nothing happening on the case. On Oct. 26, 2004, Melissa and Kevin received a call from the sheriff’s office asking them to come in as there were new developments in the case.

“I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is it. They found the person,” Melissa said. “We were just grinning from ear to ear like we’re finally going to know what happened.”

But when they arrived, they were separated and Kevin was taken to a backroom for questioning. Something didn’t feel right to Melissa.   She’d been telling police for months to stop looking at her husband. He had nothing to do with Riley’s murder but it sounded like he was their main suspect.

About eight hours into Kevin’s interrogation, police told Melissa Kevin had agreed to take a polygraph exam and that he had failed. Melissa said she then spoke to her husband. She said the sergeant overseeing the investigation pulled her out of the room, yelled obscenities in her face and insisted to her that Kevin had murdered their child. The Will County Sheriff’s Office has denied these claims.

At approximately 8 a.m., Will County detectives said Kevin had confessed to killing his daughter. He had been questioned by police for 14 hours and hadn’t slept in more than 24.

According to the detectives, Kevin confessed that he had accidentally killed Riley when he opened the bathroom door and struck her in the head early Sunday morning and that he then staged her death to look like an abduction and murder. Police said that he sexually assaulted Riley as part of the cover-up and dumped her body in the creek.

Melissa still stood by him. She was certain his confession had been coerced.

I have never really understood how people end up confessing to something they didn’t do, even with the grueling interrogation by police. To me, they should just ask for an attorney and the interview would stop. But I guess people don’t always think about doing that. I’ve heard that only the guilty think of asking for an attorney to prevent an interrogation. I guess I think of it because of all the murder shows I’ve watched.  But it’s disconcerting to know I think like a criminal. 😊

Kevin’s brother, Chad, contacted famed attorney, Kathleen Zellner, one of the best criminal defense attorneys in the country, who had helped exonerate nearly two dozen innocent people.

The Will County State’s Attorney filed first-degree murder charges against Kevin Fox and announced they were planning to seek the death penalty against him for the murder of his daughter. Kevin vehemently denied killing Riley, claiming the detectives threatened and coerced him into giving a false confession. The investigators have denied threatening Kevin and coercing him to confess.

Zellner and her PIs began to investigate. They went to Wilmington where they reenacted the crime.  The DNA results from the state crime lab were initially inconclusive but Fox’s attorney sent it in for more sophisticated technology, which determined the DNA was not a match.

She quickly began poking holes in the Will County Sheriff’s Office investigation and Kevin’s confession. For example, she alleged that the current of the creek wasn’t strong enough at the spot where Kevin said he’d placed Riley’s body to move her to the location where she was found. As she stated, a confession is not a slam dunk. It is only one piece of evidence and it has to be investigated and corroborated. However, to most jurors, a confession alone is enough for a conviction.

When DNA results came back, they excluded Kevin, but did not identify the real killer. He was released from jail the next day and the charges against him were dropped. He had spent eight months in jail wrongfully accused of his daughter’s murder.

I can’t imagine how traumatic this must have been for a family grieving the horrific murder of their child and then to have the father jailed for nearly a year.

Upon Kevin’s arrest, Zellner filed a civil rights lawsuit against Will County, the Will County Sheriff’s Office, multiple sheriff’s detectives who investigated the case, the former Will County State’s Attorney, the polygraph examiner and the forensic interviewer who spoke with Tyler, and others.

Zellner’s claims for Kevin Fox included violations of due process, false arrest, malicious prosecution, intentional infliction of emotional distress, false imprisonment, and conspiracy. For Melissa Fox, claims included conspiracy, loss of consortium, and a claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress against one detective.

“This was not about incompetence. This was a case where we had to show that there was some malicious intent,” Zellner said.

Just before the trial, the former state’s attorney who filed charges against Kevin negotiated a resolution with the Fox family without admitting wrongdoing. They ended up awarding the family 15.5 million but it was later reduced to 8 million.

The attorneys for the detectives had said one of the reasons they suspected Kevin was that they found no sign of forced entry into the Fox home and that he didn’t immediately call police. Melissa and Kevin said the lock on their back door had been broken and wouldn’t lock.

After the civil trial, the Fox family turned its attention to finding Riley’s real killer.

In 2009, the FBI took over the case. A woman came forward and said that they needed to look at her boyfriend at the time. He was living with her and he acted strangely when Riley was murdered. They were walking past a memorial and she said, “So sad about that little girl.” And he replied, “Yeah, what a shame.” But it was said in a cold manner.

The FBI followed up and learned the boyfriend, Scott Eby, was serving time for a sexual assault against a relative. They went to see him in prison. He was cooperative but denied any involvement. When they were leaving, they shook hands. The female FBI agent remarked to her partner, “That’s the clammiest handshake I’ve ever felt.”

Eby placed a call to his mother after the agents left. The call was recorded. He told her to drop whatever she was doing and come see him. He said it would be the last chance he had to hug and kiss her. She asked if he’d done something bad and he said he did something really really really bad.

FBI agents spoke to him again and, at first, he asked for an attorney. So, they had to end the questioning. They left him alone in the interview room. After about 75 seconds, he looked up at the camera and said, “I changed my mind. I’ll talk to you.”

They went back in, and he confessed everything. He told them in detail about how he’d taken Riley from her couch and stuck her in his trunk. He’d just broken into the house next door and went in to the Foxes’ house with the intent of robbing them also. He found nothing of value but spotted the sleeping child, and something compelled him to snatch her. He took her to the park into a restroom where he assaulted her. At one point, the bandana he wore slipped from his face, so he knew he had to kill her. He said one of the last things she said was, “I want my daddy.” He drowned her in the creek and tossed his shoes, because he was afraid his footprints would be matched to them. He said that, right after he’d done it, he realized how stupid it was. He expected any moment to be arrested. So, the shoes found near her body with ‘EBY’ written on the tongue belonged to him, and literally had his name on them. It was also learned that Eby attempted suicide the day Riley went missing. He was living in the same neighborhood and police came out after being called about his suicide. He asked them about the missing girl. He vomited while talking to them. And they never investigated him.  Additionally, a red Chevy Beretta was seen Saturday night driving through the neighborhood. That was not investigated, but it turned out that it was the car Eby drove.

Eby pleaded guilty in 2010 and Melissa finally faced her daughter’s killer in court. She described him as “pathetic.” Speaking directly to Eby in a victim impact statement, Melissa called him a monster, a coward and a “disappointment to his mother, family and society.” She requested that he not be given the death penalty so that he had to spend the rest of his life thinking about what he’d done.

I can’t say that I agree. Monsters like that likely don’t have a conscience and won’t suffer over what they’ve done.

Eby was sentenced to life in prison without parole. For Melissa, justice was bittersweet.

Years after Riley’s murder, Melissa and Kevin had another child — a daughter — but their marriage couldn’t survive the trauma their family had endured. They moved, got divorced and are both now remarried with new families.

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Crime Time ~ JonBenet Ramsey ~ Who do you think is guilty?

#CrimeTime with Alicia Dean ~ 

I love watching true crime shows…as long as they are about murder…, and I watch them every night. (Since I write suspense, thriller, and mystery, it’s not a waste of time…it’s research, right? 🙂 Each week, I blog about some of the recent episodes I’ve seen and I’d love to know your thoughts.

One of my short stories, Blood and Breakfast, is about a crime junkie who gets a little closer to murder than she anticipated. You can buy the Kindle version here for only $2.00 Blood and Breakfast – It’s also part of a print book with 6 other scary stories: A Collection of Friday the 13th Stories

(This is not based on a particular ID episode…it’s about a case that is all too familiar to us all)

A sweet, innocent child, murdered. A vicious killer unpunished

Boulder, Colorado, December 26th, 1996

Some of these things are what I’ve heard/read in reports and articles. They may not all be accurate, but enough of them are to make this a very troubling case.  

  • Those who believe it was an intruder mention the unidentified DNA, but any DNA found, such as on her panties, is suspect because of the way the crime scene was decimated.
  • Burke never seemed upset about his sister’s murder. Not as a child during the police interviews nor as an adult in the Dr. Phil interviews, where he had this creepy weird smile on his face the entire time. He said he was lying in bed, wondering if something had happened to JonBenet. Why would he wonder that?
  • Dr. Phil said to Burke in the interview: There still are people who believe that you killed your sister. What do you say about that?
  • Burke replied, Look at the evidence or the lack thereof. (Isn’t this a strange response? Almost sounds like, ‘they can’t prove it, can they?’)
  • Handwriting was similar to Patsy’s and so was some of the phrasing? From a Christmas note from the Ramseys: Had there been no birth of Christ, there would be no hope of eternal life, and hence, no hope of ever being with our loved ones again. From the ransom note: If we monitor you getting the money early we might call you early to arrange an earlier delivery of the money and hence an earlier pickup of your daughter.
  • How come John and Patsy never paid attention to the time and/or noted that the deadline for kidnappers to call had passed?
  • If an intruder was in the house for hours, there would have been some kind of DNA/evidence of his/their presence?
  • If the intruder wrote the note before the murder, what did he do with it during the murder? He didn’t put it on the stairs right away, because the Ramseys would have seen it earlier. He didn’t have it folded in a pocket. The sheets were laid out straight with no ‘wear’ on them.  What are the logistics of his movements? Let himself into the home while they are gone. Wait til all are asleep. Grabbed JonBenet. Took her down to basement and killed her. At what point during this did he go back  upstairs and write and leave the note? There was no reason for an intruder to leave a note, period. He never called to collect any money. If that was his intent, he would have taken her body with him. What was the purpose of the note from an intruder’s perspective? From the Ramseys perspective, a note makes perfect sense, since they would want to steer the blame to a stranger.
  • If there was an intruder, he passed a handful of exits he could have used to leave the house with JonBenet, why carry her down to the basement where he’d be trapped if anyone in the house got out of bed?
  • In the 911 call, Patsy was hyperventilating but not crying. Her word choices were weird and distant. Most of us would shout, My daughter’s missing. Please help. Or something like that. She said: ‘We have a kidnapping’ and ‘she’s 6 years old and blonde’ – Also, why hang up instead of staying on the phone to make sure they were coming?
  • It’s odd to refer to the following year as 1997, which Patsy did in her Christmas letter of 1996 and the writer of the note did. Why not say, ‘If you want her to see tomorrow or a new day or next year’ – 1997 was almost a week away. The kidnappers surely didn’t plan to keep her that long (had they had her at all, which they didn’t)
  • John Ramsey went down into the basement on his own a short time before he was asked to search the house.
  • Most families of murder victims constantly call the police to see if they’ve made any progress. The Ramseys did not.
  • Patsy seems very clinical in interviews. Her excuse of ‘I have to compartmentalize and treat it clinically’ doesn’t make sense. What loving, innocent mother would or could force herself to be so calm and emotionless. She says ‘the case’ and ‘the crime’ etc. Very detached language.
  • The marks on JonBenet’s body that some claimed were from a stun gun also matched the piece of toy train track that belonged to Burke.
  • The Ramseys did not stay together and comfort one another. Each hung out with friends. John went through his mail. He claims he as looking for something from kidnapper, but if she’d been kidnapped that morning, how would he have time to get something in the mail?
  • Why would the writer of the ransom note refer to themselves as a small foreign faction, which is vague and odd and doesn’t make them seem very powerful or threatening? And this line: We do respect your bussiness [sic] but not the country that it serves. Why compliment John’s company?
  • The Ramseys immediately called the police, even though the note said their child would be beheaded if they did.
  • They immediately called their friends to come over. Odd.
  • They sent Burke away, rather than keeping him close. If one child had just been brutally murdered by a stranger and someone who they felt had it out for John, why wouldn’t they keep Burke close to protect him and keep an eye on him? Some say they would have kept him close if guilty because of being afraid he’d talk. But the police were at their house. That is the place where they’d most NOT want him talking.
  • Though Patsy and John were in separate rooms, when confronted about the ransom note, they both said that perhaps the ransom note was written by a woman. A strange conclusion for both of them to draw on their own, suggesting they had discussed what they would say to investigators. Even more chilling in Burke’s interview, to some questions he responds, “not that I recall”. This was the exact same phrase Patsy used in her interviews, suggesting to investigators that Burke had been coached by Patsy.
  • Why did the Ramseys tell friends not to talk to police? You’d think they would want everyone to talk to the police in the hopes they might learn something that could lead to their daughter’s killer.
  • Why didn’t Patsy rush in the room when John brought JonBenet’s body up? It’s my understanding that she waited a few minutes before going into the room.
  • Why leave the note spread out on the stairs? Why take a practice run? Why use a pad and pen that was in a drawer of the home? If you plan to kidnap someone, you would likely write the note ahead of time, not hang around the house for hours and write a 3 page note while in the home, risking someone getting up and finding you.
  • Why would the kidnappers/killers refer to themselves as a small foreign faction, which is vague and odd and doesn’t make them seem very powerful or threatening? Why compliment John’s company?
  • Why was Patsy wearing the same clothes from the night before if she’d been asleep all night? She said when she woke up, she got dressed and went downstairs. At that time, she supposedly didn’t know anything was wrong, so it’s not like she was so upset, she just threw on her previous night’s clothes without thinking. She was a classy, wealthy woman and it makes zero sense she’d get up and put on the previous night’s party clothes.
  • Why would a kidnapper hang out so long and write such a lengthy, rambling ransom note rather than getting to the point of his/her demands? It might not make sense for Patsy to write such a note either, but if she wrote it, she was no doubt out of her mind with grief and fear and confusion, and she wouldn’t be making much sense.
  • Why would a kidnapper not bring anything with him and use things found in the home?
  • Why would an intruder snatch, kill, assault JonBenet while in the home and leave her body in the home instead of taking it with them? They increased their risk of being caught every moment they were in the house. The note was left on the back staircase, which wasn’t obvious. Patsy came down that way, but the kidnapper would have no way of knowing that and would most likely leave it in the kitchen or the front staircase.

So….what are your thoughts?

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