Authorities are investigating whether a Franklin Township man allegedly lured his victim to the Kent area using an online ad soliciting sex before killing him.
John R. Fox, 34, of 1783 E. Main St., Franklin Township, has been charged with murder in conjunction with the death of Justin Tyler Earley, 22, three weeks after Earley was reported missing to Alliance police.
The death is being investigated as "suspicious," said Thomas Decker, chief investigator with the Portage County Coroner's Office. He said Monday that he hasn't confirmed a preliminary cause of death. Officials continue to await the results of microscopic evidence taken by the Summit County Medical Examiner's Office.
Portage County Sheriff David Doak said his investigation found that Fox and Earley apparently were not acquainted prior to last weekend.
The Review discovered two ads on the website backpage.com, which is commonly used for prostitution purposes.
Posted on Dec. 12, a man identifying himself as "Tyler," a college student, was looking for men to have a good time with. He placed an additional ad on Dec. 19, reiterating the message and offering "incalls" and "outcalls." An "incall" is when a "john" visits a prostitute, while an "outcall" is when the prostitute visits the "john."
Both ads included photographs of "Tyler" and his phone number. Alliance police detective Lt. John Jenkins confirmed Monday that Earley was "Tyler."
Police say Fox posted an ad on Craigslist.com on Dec. 29, the day before Earley's disappearance, soliciting a man to come to his residence. Craigslist removed the ad, but Fox apparently responded to the backpage.com ad.
Doak declined to comment on the possibility that the online ads led to some kind of transaction between Earley and Fox.
After Earley's friends failed to hear from him following his alleged meeting with a man near Kent, his roommate filed a missing person report on New Year's Eve. According to a notice generated by the Ohio Attorney General's Office, it was out of character for Earley not to notify family and friends of his whereabouts.
Weeks into the investigation, authorities executed a search warrant after tracing Earley's whereabouts to Fox's apartment at the Storer Suites complex on S.R. 59 in Franklin Township on Friday. There, they discovered his car in the parking lot and his body in Fox's closet.
Fox is being held without bond pending arraignment in Portage County Municipal Court in Ravenna today.
Fox is a registered sex offender after being convicted of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor, a fourth-degree felony, in September 2006. The case involved Fox engaging in sexual conduct with a 14-year-old girl between October and December 2004, according to his indictment, and he was sentenced by Portage County Common Pleas Judge John Enlow to six months in prison and labeled a sexually oriented offender.
Record-Courier staff writer Dave O'Brien contributed to this story.
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