A Missouri man spent nearly 17 years in jail after eyewitness testimony found him guilty of a crime he did not commit — until police discovered his doppelganger.
Richard Anthony Jones, of Kansas City, was freed Thursday after a judge declared there was no longer enough evidence to support his conviction.
“When I saw that picture, it made sense to me,” Jones said in an interview with The Kansas City Star. "Either you’re going to think they’re the same person or you’re going to be like, ‘Man these guys, they look so much alike.”
It was during his time behind bars that he heard of a prisoner who looked exactly like him. Not only did they bear an uncanny resemblance, but they also have the same first name.
In a last ditch effort to appeal his conviction after many failed attempts, he brought up the information to his lawyers at the Missouri Innocence Project.
“We were floored by how much they looked alike,” Jones’ attorney Alice Craig said.
Jones was jailed after being found guilty of armed robbery in 1999.
Witnesses said they saw a man wrestle a woman to the ground outside a Walmart in Kansas City, Kan., in an attempt to steal her purse.
No DNA, fingerprint, or physical evidence identified Jones at the scene, but eyewitnesses positively identified Jones as the perpetrator after being shown photos out of a police database.
Witnesses were reportedly unable to get a good look at his face, but remembered he was either Hispanic or light-skinned African American. On the photo lineup, which his attorneys called “highly suggestive,” Jones was the only one who fit the description.
Jones’ attorneys later showed pictures of the two men to the victim, two witnesses and the prosecutor. They all agreed they could not tell the men apart.
Investigators later found his lookalike, known as “Ricky,” lived in Kansas City, Kan., near the address of the robbery. Jones, however, lived on the other side of town in Kansas City, Mo.
“Ricky” testified at the hearing that he did not commit the robbery.
While stopping short of saying the other man committed the crime, the judge found “a jury would not be able to reach a determination that this defendant was guilty” in light of the new evidence, a GoFundMe page started by volunteers reported.
Jones, now a free man, said he is looking forward to spending more time with his children and readjusting to life outside of prison.
“It’s been a rough ride … for a while, they didn’t understand, they just knew I wasn’t there,” he said. “Everything else will just come together on its own when it’s meant to come together.