The mother of a murdered teen boy in Washington has gone public with pleas to aid her in getting police to charge her son’s murderers with hate crimes. She’s even called on celebrities Lady Gaga and Ellen DeGeneres for help.
The newspaper Inlander reports Jason Fox was murdered in Newport, Washington last September. Investigators discovered his body in a shallow grave on a nearby ranch about a month later. Four men–Riley Hillestad, Claude Merritt, Matthew Raddatz-Freeman and Kevin Belding–now face charges in connection with the murder, though police have resisted labeling the killing a hate crime.
Now Jason’s mother, Pepper Fox, has taken to TikTok to enlist public and celebrity help.
“Hi, this is my attempt to get ahold of Ellen DeGeneres and Lady Gaga,” Pepper said in one TikTok video. “My 19-year-old son was brutally murdered in Newport, Washington, which is not a gay-friendly area, a few months ago… I’m in over my head and I need some help.”
It’s not clear if the video has reached DeGeneres or Gaga, though it has since netted more than one million likes on TikTok.
“I’m glad that people are interested and paying attention,” said Glenn Blakeslee, Pend Oreille County sheriff of the outpouring of support. “I hope people will reserve judgment until we get to court and facts can be presented in a thorough manner.”
A police investigation has revealed that the four men charged in Jason Fox’s murder have all admitted to being at the crime scene the night of the killing, though none have admitted participation in the crime. An investigation of Fox’s phone and social media accounts revealed nude photos of Merritt as well as several unidentified other men, in addition to screenshots of threatening conversations. Police have not identified the sender of the threatening messages. Further text messages reveal that Jason Fox expressed fear of Riley Hillestad, and had a past, violent altercation with Hillestad and Raddatz-Freeman in which the pair smashed his windshield with a pipe.
Pepper Fox claims that police need to examine more evidence she uncovered on her son’s iCloud account which further indicates his killing was hate-motivated. A judge granted a police warrant to search Jason’s iCloud account on April 6, though investigators have yet to issue further findings.