In 2000, Richard Jones was found guilty of a violent theft that happened in a Walmart parking lot in 1999. The police couldn’t find any concrete evidence to link him to the crime, but there was an eyewitness, who claimed that they saw Richard commit the crime. He was found guilty of the crime and sent to the Lansing Correctional facility in Kansas.
May 31, 1999
On May 31, 1999, three acquaintances were doing drugs in Wyandotte County, Kansas. They were driving aimlessly when they realized that their stash had run out. They knew that they needed to get more, but since they were out of money, the men realized that they had to find a way to get more. The group went to pick up a man named Rick; he told them to go to the Walmart in Roeland Park, located in Johnson County.
When they got to Walmart, Rick got out of the car and approached a female walking into Walmart. He tried to grab her purse, but she put up a fight. He was only able to grab her cellphone. The men in the vehicle managed to escape, and the police were called. When the police arrived, neither the woman or the store security got a good look at the attempted thief. They were only able to get a look at the back of this head before he escaped. Investigators didn’t have much to go on, so they put together a profile of the suspect.
According to eyewitness reports, the police were able to establish that the suspect was a thin male with dark hair. However, the description of the man’s race varied. Some identified the suspect as a black man with light skin. Others claimed that the man was dark-skinned and Hispanic. Authorities settled on the Hispanic description as being the most reliable.
Tracking Down the Driver
The police were able to track down the driver of the car, who told them that he didn’t really know
Rick very well before they picked him up on the day of the robbery. Although he didn’t know Rick well, he was willing to identify him to the police. The investigators showed him a photo array of various men that had similar features. They asked the man to pick out Rick’s photo. He selected a picture, and in 2000, almost a year after the robbery, they finally made an arrest.
The police arrested Richard Jones, but he maintained his innocence. He claimed to have been miles away in Kansas City, Missouri at the time. He said that he and his girlfriend hosted a party, and they were cleaning up when the crime occurred. Despite his alibi, the police were sure that he was guilty. They found a few other witnesses to pick him out of a photo. Each witness was showed six pictures, and there was only one photo of a fair-skinned man, and it was Richard. This caused the police to believe that he really was the man who committed the crime.
According to the Innocence Project, police departments often use photo arrays to convict criminals, but the photos used are often biased. This has led to many wrongful convictions. This was how Richard was identified, and despite the lack of substantial evidence, he was found guilty of aggravated robbery and sentenced to 19 years in jail. He was an innocent man and forced to go to prison, leaving his girlfriend and two daughters behind. One was just a baby when he went to jail.
Investigators Discovery: Doppelganger
When Rick got to prison, he tried to come to terms with his new situation. There, his fellow inmates told him that he had a doppelganger who was incarcerated in the same prison. Inmates would tell him that they just saw him in the cafeteria and he ignored them. Rick just took this with a grain of salt. It wasn’t long before Rick began to believe that he had a twin in the jail, and he may have been the one who committed the crime. This led him to seek out assistance from Project Innocence.
Investigators Discovery: Ricky Amos
Project for Innocence tracked down the photo of Rick’s doppelganger, who was living right near the Walmart in 1999. Amos was evicted from his apartment before the robbery took place, but the investigators discovery, he had moved into his brother’s home nearby. After speaking to the men who claimed to have picked Rick up on the day of the crime. It was the same address. Finally, the pieces to the puzzle were coming together. Between this information and then put photos of the two men side by side, they realized that they had the wrong man in custody. The men were identical, even though they weren’t related.
Investigators Discovery: Statute Of Limitations
Because it had been so long, the statute of limitations had expired for the crime, and they couldn’t put Amos in prison for the crime. The victim saw both men’s photos and said that she couldn’t tell who was who. She told them that she didn’t feel right having Rick in jail for a crime that he may not have committed. The security guard also withdrew his testimony when he saw the tow photos. He said that if he had been shown the two pictures from the beginning, things would have gone much differently.
Finally, on June 7, 2017, Breanna Lynch and Nikki Multer, Rick’s new attorneys, he was able to get a new trial. Ultimately, it was determined that Rick was wrongfully convicted. After 17-years, he was a free man. To help him rebuild his life, well-wishers raised over $16,000 through GoFundMe. A year after his release, he was awarded $1.1 million from the state. He was also offered free healthcare and counseling. This man was locked up for over a decade. Then investigators discovered his criminal lookalike, and it was a colossal miscarriage of justice.