Fox Plea

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On a boat ramp on South Lagoon Drive is where Elliot was found nearly two years ago badly beaten. He died to days later.

Investigators initially arrested five people for the murder. Twenty-year-old Steven Fox was the only one still facing charges. Fe cut a plea deal to one count of manslaughter. The deal means he'll avoid a prison sentence.

Steven Fox entered the courtroom Friday morning without handcuffs. Both his family and the family of the victim, Jeffery Shane Elliot, quietly watched as Fox pled no contest to manslaughter.

His sentence? Two years of community control, followed by eight years of probation. No prison time. Why? The state says it couldn't have won if the case had gone to trial.

"Those witnesses have either left the area or are uncooperative with us, or they have recanted their statements. There is not physical evidence in this case that directly links him to this crime and that's the reason the evidence from these witnesses was essential to a successful prosecution."

Some of those witnesses were presumably fox's one-time co-defendants. After their arrest in November 2004, prosecutors began dropping charges against the other four teenagers for lack of evidence.

There also seemed to be some sort of agreement that some of them would testify for the state at Fox's trial, but apparently their stories and other witness' stories changed forcing prosecutors to make the plea agreement.

Circuit Judge Michael Overstreet recognized the prosecution's dilemma, then assured Fox that if he violated his probation he would end up serving the full 15 years.

"You have taken away this young man from this family forever. They have only his memory to cherish. You bear that burden today and you should bear it for the balance of your life."

Shane Elliot's mother was gracious about the plea deal.

"No amount of time or sentence will bring my son back. I hope that Steven takes advantage of this chance and makes something out of his life."

As Debbie Elliot left the courtroom, the family of Steven Fox embraced her and apologized for her loss, another step for both families to move on with their lives.

So after almost two years we are back at this boat ramp where it all started that night in June 2004, the night 17-year-old Jeffrey Shane Elliot's life was cut short.

A teenager died for no reason and no one will be serving a prison sentence.

Along with the sentence of two years of community control and eight years of probation, Fox will also have to perform 1,000 hours of community service.