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Jury finds defendant in Jason Fox murder trial guilty

On Oct. 4, 2020, law enforcement found Fox’s body in an isolated area in Newport. He was buried in a shallow grave.

NEWPORT, Wash. — The trial for one of the suspects in the murder of Jason Fox from Newport, has ended. 

On Thursday, the jury started deliberations. Claude Merritt has been found guilty on all charges in connection to the death of the 19-year-old, except unlawful disposal of human remains. 

Merritt was found guilty on multiple charges including first-degree murder. 

KREM 2’s Amanda Roley was in the courtroom today to share what attorneys told the jury in their closing arguments.  

The family of Jason Fox believe his murder was a hate crime.  

On Oct. 4, 2020, law enforcement found Fox’s body in an isolated area in Newport. They say he was buried in a shallow grave with his hands tied behind his back.  

Claude Merritt, also known as CL, is on trial for murder and kidnapping charges relating to Fox’s death.   

Pend Oreille County Prosecutors believe Merritt lured Fox to a shop at 22 Yergens. There, he was tied up and beaten, then taken in a side by side to a 4 foot deep hole and buried there.  

In closing arguments on Thursday, the Pend Oreille County Prosecutor Dolly Hunt told the jury they believe Merritt played a major role in this murder.  

"The testimony was that Claude Merritt kneed Jason in the face in the shop office that night. Claude Merritt stomped on Jason in the back of that side-by-side," Hunt said. "Claude Merritt is the one that places Jason on his knees at the edge of that grave."

Merrit’s defense attorney Dennis Morgan insisted none of the evidence admitted in court proved his involvement in these crimes.  

“CL’s DNA wasn't there, CL’s fingerprints weren’t there, CL’s blood was only in that bathroom. The shoes of all four were tested, no evidence was found on CL's shoes," Morgan said. "The ranger was searched and examined. There was no evidence connecting CL to Ranger other than he and Jason riding around on it that night having fun.”