#JusticeForJasonFox

Jillian Russell, Features Editor

On September 14th, 2020, Jason Fox was brutally murdered in Newport, Washington. His mother, Pepper Fox, thinks he was killed for being gay. Jason was only 19 years old, counting down the last days of summer before college began. He was set to go to college on a full scholarship to be a nurse, just like his mother. On this night, all Jason wanted to do was go to his friend Claude’s house. However, Jason would only go if their other friend Riley wouldn’t be there.

Jason texted Claude asking, “Where’s [your] place and is it [for real] not Riley? I wanna kick it, I just ain’t down for the drama.” In response, Claude said, “Bro that’s why I’m where I’m at because I don’t like the s*** around me.” With hesitation, Jason decided to go. However, because he was worried, he texted his cousin, “22 Yergens Rd, just in case anything happens to me…” This address was not Claude’s house. Instead, it was an empty wedding venue known as the Timber River Ranch. When Jason had arrived, Riley was there along with three other boys, including Claude.

The next day, Jason was officially reported missing. It wasn’t until weeks later that his body had been found. On October 14th, 2020 his body was found at the ranch with his hands tied behind his back, buried three feet in the ground. Police say that he was killed in one of the most painful ways possible. In connection to Jason Fox’s death, four people have been charged with first-degree murder and other charges: Kevin Belding, Riley Hillestad, Claude Merritt, and Matthew Raddatz-Freeman. The trial is set to be on April 5th, 2021. 

Following the death of Jason Fox, his mother has been relentless in her efforts to bring justice to her son’s case. Since his death, Pepper Fox has been raising awareness via TikTok (@foxypepper26), voicing her anger and grief. TikTok users and creators have been acknowledging her pleas and have been advocating justice for Jason Fox. “#JusticeForJasonFox” was viral. 

On February 25th, 2021, Pepper Fox shared that she will be organizing Newport’s first annual gay pride parade, in loving memory of Jason Fox. This will be held on April 3rd, 2021, which would have been Jason’s 20th birthday. She is asking for any and all support. There is a GoFundMe, as well as multiple petitions.