Man found guilty of second-degree murder in Newport teen’s death

NEWPORT, Wash — Riley Hillestad was found guilty of second-degree murder in 19-year-old Jason Fox’s 2020 death.

Hillestad faces several charges and was convicted on all but two. He was found not guilty of first-degree murder and kidnapping but was convicted of second-degree murder, manslaughter, unauthorized concealment of a body, tampering with physical evidence, unauthorized disposal of a body and failure to notify a coroner.

Pend Oreille County Prosecutor Dolly Hunt argued for Hillestad to be charged as principal or as an accomplice to murder.

“’22 Yergens Road, just in case something happens to me,’” she said in her opening statements. “This would be the last text Jason Fox sends to his family or friends on the early hours of September 15, 2020.”

Defense attorney Brooke Hagara believed Hillestad was innocent.

“We’re going to be asking that you find Mr. Hillestad not guilty of first-degree murder, the lesser included charges of second-degree murder, and first-degree manslaughter, and unlawful disposal of human remains,” Hagara told the jury.

Hillestad was one of four men arrested in Fox’s murder.

Kevin Belding took a plea deal last fall, admitting to rendering criminal assistance and failing to notify a corner. The criminal assistance charge, a felony, has a maximum sentence of one year, while the other is 90 days. Belding already spent at least 15 months in jail waiting for trial, so he was released because of his time served.

READ: A man was accused of being involved with a Newport teen’s death. Now, he’s out of jail. 

Another man, Claude Merrit, was found guilty by a jury earlier this year. He was sentenced to 28 years in prison for his part in Fox’s death.

The fourth suspect, Matthew Raddatz-Freeman, has not yet gone to trial.

Hillestad will be sentenced on July 22.

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