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Suspect in murder of Jason Fox found guilty of second-degree murder, 5 other charges

Riley Hillestad was found guilty of six charges in relation to the 2020 murder of 19-year-old Jason Fox. He was found not guilty of first-degree murder.

NEWPORT, Wash. — The man accused of orchestrating the murder of a Newport teenager in 2020 was found guilty of second-degree murder, first-degree manslaughter and other charges on Tuesday afternoon.

Riley Hillestad was also found guilty of unauthorized removal or concealment of a body, tampering with evidence, unlawful disposal of human remains and tampering with evidence in relation to the death of 19-year-old Jason Fox. 

Hillestad was found not guilty of first-degree murder and first-degree kidnapping.

Fox was found dead in an isolated area near Newport in October of 2020. Court documents say Fox's body was found buried three to four feet underground with his hands tied behind his back.

Other suspects include Matthew Raddatz-Freeman, Claude Merritt and Sean Bellah have also been arrested in connection to his death. Hillestad has been described as the ringleader who orchestrated the murder.

According to court documents, on Sept. 15, Fox sent a message to a person who lived with his aunt saying he would be at 22 Yergens “in case something happens to him” and he hadn’t spoken to any family members since. An emergency ping was conducted on his phone showing it at the Yergens address.

When law enforcement officers went to the location to see if Fox was there. They spoke with Hillestad, Raddatz-Freeman, Merritt and a woman who all lived at the location. Court documents say they each gave a different account of when they had last seen Fox, ranging from two months prior to one week prior.

Opening arguments in Hillestad's trial began on Friday, June 10 and the trial began on Monday, June 13. Jury deliberations began on Friday morning and continued until approximately 1 p.m. on Tuesday.

Hillestad's sentencing is scheduled for July 22.

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