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Four men facing charges of murder, kidnapping for Newport teen’s death

UPDATED: Tue., Nov. 10, 2020

Fox  (Courtesy)
Fox (Courtesy)

Five men were arrested over the weekend in connection with the death of a 19-year-old Newport man who disappeared at the end of September.

The remains of 19-year-old Jason Fox were discovered in early October outside of Newport after he was reported missing in September. His death was ruled a homicide and his parents feared that Fox, who identified as bisexual, might have been the victim of a hate crime, according to KHQ.

Riley J. Hillestad, 26, Matthew J. Raddatz-Freeman, 28, Claude L. Merritt, 25, and Kevin M. K. Belding, 24, were all arrested on charges of first-degree murder and kidnapping. Sean D. Bellah was arrested on a charge of providing misleading statements. All suspects are Pend Oreille County residents, according to a news release from the Pend Oreille County Sheriff’s Office on Monday.

According to the news release, Fox’s cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head.

The investigation was a joint effort between the Pend Oreille County Sheriff’s Office and the Newport Police Department. According to the news release the investigation into Fox’s death is ongoing and more charges may follow.

According to court documents, Belding, Merritt and Raddatz-Freeman had bonds set at $750,000 and will appear in court Nov. 19. An online search of court records did not identify a court date for Hillestad. Bellah had a bond set at $1,000.

In a statement to KHQ, Fox’s parents Pepper and Michael Fox, who have repeatedly spoken out since their son first went missing, said they were relieved there had been arrests in connection to his death.

“I would rather have them take their time and make sure these people never seen the outside world again,” Fox’s mother, Pepper Fox said. “If it takes a while, that’s OK.”

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