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Larry Fox, Sr.

Other Indiana Exonerations
On March 29, 1986, 37-year-old Larry Fox, Sr. and his longtime girlfriend, Joyce Beyers, went boating on Hardy Lake in Scott County, Indiana. Fox reported that at around 8:00 PM, while he was in the front of the boat driving and Beyers was in the back, he heard Beyers yell.

Fox said he turned around and Beyers was gone. He turned the boat around and jumped in the water to search, but after an hour without success, he scattered life preservers and returned to shore.

There were several witnesses. A couple who lived about a quarter of a mile from the shore said they heard a woman yell three times followed by a man’s voice calling in despair. James and Beth Shelton were fishing on the lake and heard a man yelling as well. Two other couples also heard a man yelling and saw a boat circling.

Beyers’s body was recovered from the lake on April 26. Her clothing was neat and tucked in. Dr. John Pless performed the autopsy. He found blunt force contusions on Beyers’s head, right arm, and both legs. He opined that the head blows could have caused unconsciousness. He reported that Beyers’s lungs contained relatively little fluid, suggesting that she was unconscious before entering the water. He reported the cause of death as asphyxia, but he could not determine the manner of death. He reported that he could not find anything that indicated a natural cause of death.

Fox was charged with murder and went to trial in April of 1988. The prosecution presented evidence that Beyers had obtained a restraining order against Fox on February 24, 1986, although it had expired by the time of her death.

Ronald Abner, who had dated Beyers, testified that a few months before Beyers’s death, Fox had stormed into Beyers’s house and thrown her to the ground.

On April 7, 1988, a jury convicted Fox and he was sentenced to 40 years in prison.

After his sentencing and while the case was being appealed, Fox filed two sworn affidavits in an attempt to overturn the conviction. The first was from his 15-year-old son, Larry Fox, Jr., who was the son of Fox and Beyers. The younger Fox stated that on the morning of her death, Beyers fell and struck the back of her head while attempting to replace the doors on her jeep. He stated that he had not told anyone about this before because he had not previously known about the medical examiner’s finding of contusions on Beyers’s head.

The second affidavit was from Ray Davis, who stated that he was fishing on the lake at the time of the incident. He said that at about dusk, he passed a 15-to 16-foot boat with two people in it. He saw “a person exit from the back of the boat” while the other person was in front. He saw the boat circle around. Davis thought they were “playing around or just having fun,” so he returned to shore.

Davis stated that he was unaware that Fox had been charged with murder until May 13, 1988—after Fox was sentenced—when he read about the case in a newspaper. He said that after pondering it for several days, he concluded that the incident had occurred the Saturday before Easter in 1986, and that was the day he had seen “a person exit from the back of the boat.”

The Supreme Court of Indiana denied Fox’s appeal on October 11, 1990. Fox filed a motion for rehearing and on March 19, 1991, the Supreme Court of Indiana reversed Fox’s conviction, finding that the two affidavits warranted a new trial.

At the second trial, the defense challenged the credibility of Pless, the medical examiner. The defense cross-examined Pless about a 1970 arson case in which Pless had identified a body as Clarence Roberts. Ten years later, Roberts’s wife, who had been unsuccessfully trying to collect Clarence Roberts’s life insurance, died in another fire alongside the body of a man. Pless then identified that body as Clarence Roberts, admitting he had been mistaken in 1970. He was also cross-examined about another water death in which his testimony had contradicted the testimony he offered in Fox’s trial that the paucity of water in the lungs suggested that the victim was unconscious before entering the water. After this cross-examination, Fox rested without presenting any evidence or witnesses, including Davis or Fox’s son.

On June 30, 1993, the jury acquitted Fox.

After Indiana enacted a law in 2019 enabling wrongfully convicted defendants to seek compensation from the state, Fox filed a claim, but it was denied. Fox appealed and the denial was reversed. He was awarded $152,602.

– Simon Cole

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Posting Date: 8/12/2017
Last Updated: 1/23/2024
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1986
Sentence:40 years
Age at the date of reported crime:37
Contributing Factors:False or Misleading Forensic Evidence
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No