By Kim Smith
WILMINGTON Two years ago today, Riley Fox, 3, was reported missing by her father. Later that afternoon, a couple of hikers found her little body about four miles away in the waters of Forked Creek in the Forsythe Woods Preserve.
Since then, Will County police have tested 50 to 60 DNA samples against evidence found on the toddler's body. It was the same sample that cleared her father, Kevin Fox, of the crime.
"We continue to check DNA samples of known sex offenders," said Pat Barry, spokesman for the county police. "We also check them with a national registry of sex offenders."
Barry said no one has been officially cleared of the crime.
There was a glimmer of hope when Lawrence Southwood emerged as a possible suspect. Southwood, 68, of 30507 Readman Lane in Wilmington Township was charged in December with repeatedly raping a teenage quadriplegic. Previously, he fathered two children with his own daughter.
The victim lived about four houses away from Riley's grandmother's home in Wilmington.
Barry said Southwood's DNA was not a match, eliminating him as a suspect in the Fox case.
Kevin Fox was charged and arrested for the sexual assault and murder of his daughter six months after her death. He spent more than 200 days in jail while the evidence was being processed. The charges were later dropped.
His family, including his wife, Melissa, and his brother Chad, stood by Kevin through his ordeal. His attorney, Kathleen Zellner of Naperville, said the Fox family has moved on in the sense that they have relocated to another town.
"They will always carry this heartbreak with them," Zellner said. "They will always wonder what kind of monster could do such a thing."
Recently, a federal judge ruled that a civil lawsuit filed on behalf of Kevin Fox can continue. The suit charges he was falsely imprisoned and coerced into confessing to the crime.
Fox said in a videotaped statement that he accidentally hit his daughter in the head with a bathroom door. Instead of calling an ambulance, he attempted to make her appear the victim of an abduction and rape by duct-taping her hands and mouth. He reportedly used his finger to make it look like a sexual assault and placed her unconscious body in the back of his car before dumping her in the creek.
Zellner said the trial date for the civil suit will more than likely not be set until the fall of 2007.
Riley's Law looms
However, proposed legislation known as Riley's Law could be signed by Gov. Rod Blagojevich any day now. The measure would expedite the DNA evidence in child murder cases, sending the evidence to private crime laboratory if necessary to avoid long waits. This measure is expected to help catch criminals and avoid holding people falsely accused of murdering children.
Charles B. Pelkie, spokesman for the Will County state's attorney's office, said the Riley Fox case is still a top priority.
"Our investigators have visited Zellner's office on numerous occasions," Pelkie said. "We have followed all leads."
There is still a $100,000 reward listed on www.justiceforriley.com for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Riley's killer.
"This crime cannot be solved without your help. Any information, no matter how small, may help law enforcement. Please help us stop this killer from destroying another family's life," reads a statement signed by Kevin and Melissa Fox. "We do not want the real murderer to get away with this."
Anyone with information can fill out an e-mail on the Web site or call (800) 344-6340.
- Reporter Kim Smith can be reached at (815) 729-6067 or via e-mail at [email protected]