November 10, 2010
The life sentence, which is fully supported by Riley’s parents, closes the book permanently on a horrific case involving the random abduction of the little girl from her Wilmington house on June 6, 2004 and her subsequent sexual assault and murder. Circuit Judge Richard Schoenstedt accepted the plea and sentence Wednesday afternoon.
Eby pleaded guilty to five counts of first-degree murder and one count of predatory criminal sexual assault of a child.
Before the State’s Attorney’s Office presented the plea and sentence to Judge Schoenstedt, prosecutors reviewed all evidence in this case, examined the application of the death penalty in Illinois, and consulted with Kevin and Melissa Fox and their attorney, Kathleen Zellner.
“Kevin and Melissa Fox firmly expressed the desire that their daughter’s brutal and callous murderer endure the torture of drawing every remaining breath in his miserable existence inside the cold dank walls of an Illinois prison cell,”
State’s Attorney Glasgow said. “More than six years after Riley’s death, these parents are seeking the same certainty and closure in their personal lives that the citizens of Will County demand from their justice system. Today’s guilty plea eliminates every avenue for appeal and guarantees that Scott Wayne Eby will never walk free to prey upon another innocent child.”
Melissa Fox addressed Eby directly in her victim impact statement, writing for the court: “I feel that if I have to live the rest of my life with the pain you have inflicted, you should have to live the rest of your life labeled as a child killer. I’m opposed to you getting the death penalty and dying a quick, painless death.”
Prosecutors question whether the death penalty in this case would be upheld by higher courts or implemented given the current climate in Illinois. While capital punishment exists on the books, Governor Pat Quinn has stated he will not lift the current moratorium on imposing death sentences enacted by former Governor George Ryan 10 years ago. Furthermore, the General Assembly in its veto session beginning next week will consider a bill endorsed by the Illinois State Bar Association that seeks to abolish the death penalty in Illinois.
There were many twists in the investigation into Riley’s murder. A former Will County State’s Attorney charged Kevin Fox, Riley’s father, with first degree murder on Oct. 28, 2004 and announced the following day that he intended to seek the death penalty.
State’s Attorney Glasgow, who inherited the case, dismissed the charges and released Kevin Fox from jail on June 17, 2005, immediately after a DNA test failed to link him to the crime. The DNA that Glasgow ordered tested was collected from Riley’s body shortly after she was discovered in Forked Creek in Wilmington on June 6, 2004. However, the DNA was not tested for comparison against a sample of Mr. Fox’s DNA in the five months leading up to the former state’s attorney’s decision to file first-degree murder charges and to seek the death penalty.
In early 2008, State’s Attorney Glasgow spearheaded discussions with the FBI regarding its assistance in the investigation. In June 2009, a team of FBI agents went to Wilmington to once again canvass the neighborhoods near Riley’s house. Information developed by federal agents during this sweep eventually led to Scott Wayne Eby.
State’s Attorney Glasgow thanked Robert D. Grant, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago office of the FBI, for offering critical assistance that led to a resolution in this important case.
“The FBI brought unprecedented resources and expertise to this investigation,” he said. “Over the course of a year, special agents methodically reviewed statements from each witness until they found what at first appeared to be a tenuous thread linking Scott Wayne Eby to this terrible crime. These special agents deserve tremendous credit for dogged investigative work that brought a dangerous killer to justice.”
Charles B. Pelkie
(815) 530-7110 (cellular)
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