Franklin Township murderer sentenced to life in prison

John Fox, convicted of the murder of Justin Early, was sentenced to life in prison without parole in the Ravenna Courthouse Monday, Nov. 3, 2014.

John Fox, convicted of the murder of Justin Early, was sentenced to life in prison without parole in the Ravenna Courthouse Monday, Nov. 3, 2014.

Madeleine Winer

A Franklin Township man found guilty of murder was sentenced to life in prison without parole Tuesday despite a plea for the death penalty from the victim’s family.

John Fox, 34, pled no contest and was convicted on three counts of aggravated murder, among other charges, last week after admitting he killed 22-year-old Alliance man Justin Earley, who he was soliciting for sexual favors through Craigslist last December. Portage County Court of Common Pleas Judge Laurie Pittman waived all of Fox’s court fines after sentencing him to life in prison.

Lacy Sanders, Earley’s sister, asked Pittman to “find justice in the death penalty” when sentencing Fox for the murder of her brother.

“I believe that John Fox doesn’t deserve to live his life — not even in jail,” Sanders, who cried as she read a letter addressed to Pittman in court, said Monday afternoon. “Why should he be breathing and seeing life when our family member is gone?” 

Fox told police he choked Earley to death and stored his body in a closet on Dec. 30 in his Storer Suites apartment at 1783 E. Main St. in Kent, according to the Portage County Prosecutor’s statement of facts for the case. An Alliance Police missing-persons investigation led Portage County Sheriff’s Department to Fox’s residence on Jan. 17, where they found and seized Earley’s decomposed body and his 1992 Buick Riviera parked in the Campus Pointe Apartments parking lot.

“All I wanted to hear was that my brother was safe and alive,” Sanders said in court Monday, “not that his body was found decomposed in someone’s closet. Justin didn’t deserve his life to end so young. Justin should have been able to have a funeral because of old age, not murder.”

Pittman denied a motion last month to suppress evidence — including Earley’s body — found from the search of Fox’s apartment. Portage County Public Defender Dennis Lager claimed police searched Fox’s apartment without a legal search warrant. Lager said Monday the defense will appeal Pittman’s decision to deny the suppression of evidence. If a higher court grants the motion to suppress evidence from the police search of Fox’s apartment, Fox could be set free from prison.

After police searched Fox’s apartment, Police arrested him on Hayes Road in Ravenna.

Fox was previously arrested in 2006 for a third-degree felony for unlawful sexual conduct with a minor, according to the Portage County Clerk of Courts. Judge John Enlow of the Portage County Common Pleas Court found Fox guilty and sentenced him to 180 days in jail.

Fox made an appearance in court a second time for unlawful sexual behavior with a minor, but charges were dropped when there was not enough evidence to convict him.

Interviews with Fox later revealed that he made contact with Earley in November through a advertisement. He said Earley came to his apartment three times before he went missing Dec. 30. Fox told police he “kind of singled him (Earley) out.” 

“I guess, in a way, I purposely, well unfortunate for him, I have a lot of anger issues in the past year,” Fox told police.

Fox confirmed he planned to kill Earley that day. He admitted in court that he did not feel remorse after killing him.

“It didn’t bother you?” asked Lt. Johnson of the Portage County Sheriff’s Department.

“And that kind of worried me because it should, it should,” Fox replied.

Contact Madeleine Winer at [email protected].