Will County Sheriff Paul Kaupas candidly admits his department made mistakes during the homicide investigation of a 3-year-old girl, and he's offering his apology to her surviving family.
"I don't think that this department is that proud where we are not going to admit any mistakes. We just want to find out how to do things better and hope it doesn't occur again," he said Thursday.
Riley Fox was kidnapped from her Wilmington, Illinois home in June, 2004. Hikers found her body hours later in a nearby creek. She had been sexually assaulted.
Will County investigators eventually charged her father, Kevin Fox, with her death, saying he confessed. But Fox almost immediately claimed his confession was coerced. DNA evidence eventually cleared him and charges were dropped. He and his family filed a civil lawsuit and won a multi-million dollar judgment against Will County.
Last month, prosecutors charged another man, Scott Eby, for the crime. Eby lived about a mile away from the Fox family at the time and is currently serving a 14-year sentence for an unrelated sexual assault.
Kaupas said he plans to bring in outside investigators to review the case and their investigative protocols.
"Sometimes have to bring in other people who aren't familiar with the area... to come in and show you that over a period of time you might have graduated into complacency with the way your police techniques work," he said.
Kaupas now admits that his department "obviously dropped the ball" and says he's lost sleep and agonized over this case.
"I apologize to [Kevin Fox] and the family," he said. "I don't know if he would ever see things our way, but I would try to explain... what kind of ball might have been dropped in this part of the investigation or that part of the investigation and what we are going to do to fix it."
Kevin Fox's attorney, Kathleen Zellner, said she admires Kaupas' courage in coming forward and apologizing to the family.
"Sheriff Kaupas had nothing to do with the miscarriage of justice in this case," she said.