An autopsy Sunday showed Ancona died of a gunshot to the head, Washington County Coroner Brian DeClue told The Washington Post. He said he could not elaborate on how many times Ancona had been shot or when he had died. However, DeClue said investigators were treating the case as a homicide and not a suicide.
On Monday, Malissa Ancona, 44, and Paul Jinkerson Jr., 24 — Frank Ancona’s wife and stepson — were charged with first-degree murder, tampering with physical evidence and abandonment of a corpse, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
Investigators allege Jinkerson shot his stepfather Thursday while he was sleeping and then dumped the body near Belgrade, Mo., according to a probable cause statement obtained by the newspaper. Detectives reportedly found “extensive blood evidence” in the Anconas’ master bedroom, which Malissa Ancona said in a recorded statement she tried to clean up, the newspaper reported.
His wife initially told police that she last saw Frank Ancona, 51, before he left for work around 8:30 or 9 a.m. Wednesday, the Daily Journal reported.
Leadwood Police Chief William Dickey told the newspaper that Malissa Ancona said her husband had gotten a call from work saying he needed to deliver vehicle parts across the state. Dickey also said Frank Ancona’s employer had reported him missing but had denied asking Ancona to make a delivery across the state, according to the newspaper.
According to police, Malissa Ancona also told them her husband had packed a bag of clothes, taken all of the couple’s guns from their home and indicated that he was filing for divorce when he returned, the Daily Journal reported. Inside the home, police found a safe with its contents missing, according to the newspaper.
After Ancona’s disappearance, a U.S. Forest Service employee found his car on national forest land, Jacobsen said. The sheriff said the department requested help from other agencies on the case “due to the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of Mr. Ancona.”
However, reached by phone late Sunday afternoon, Malissa Ancona told The Post that the police and the Daily Journal had “got everything all wrong.”
“I tried to talk to Leadwood police, but they changed every single thing around that I said,” she said.
Ancona said that her husband had actually left for work around 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, then returned 2:30 a.m. Thursday, which was his usual schedule. Around then, as he was going to bed, was when she last saw him, she said.
Malissa Ancona said she could not speak in detail yet about anything that might have taken place after that, on the advice of a police detective from a neighboring department that is also handling the investigation.
She said she was not in contact with Frank Ancona’s family members, who live nearby, because they do not get along. Malissa Ancona also disputed the police report that said her husband wanted a divorce, suggesting that her husband’s family had been trying to encourage him to do so since they were married in 2010.
“They’re trying to make it look like I did something,” she said tearfully Sunday. “He’s all I have. I don’t have any family of my own. … What would I get out of this?”
A few hours after Malissa Ancona spoke with The Post, she was taken into custody on a 24-hour hold on suspicion of first-degree murder, the St. Francois County jail confirmed Monday. The following day, she was charged with murder.
The Washington County Sheriff’s Office learned of Frank Ancona’s disappearance on Friday, the sheriff said. During the investigation, authorities arrested one person on an unrelated warrant, he added.
Calls to both the Washington and St. Francois county sheriff’s offices were not returned Sunday or Monday. A person who answered the phone Sunday at the Leadwood Police Department said he was not allowed to speak about the case.
Eric Barnhart, an attorney representing Jinkerson in an unrelated drug case, told The Post that he had not spoken with his client yet.
“I really don’t believe [Jinkerson] did it,” Barnhart said by phone Monday. “He just doesn’t seem, like, violent.”
Local authorities did not mention Ancona’s affiliation with the Ku Klux Klan. According to its website, Ancona was the “imperial wizard” for a group called the “Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan,” listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group.
“The media will tell you The KKK is dead, gone, irrelevant. They have tried since the birth of the Klan to downplay the influence and power of the KKK,” Ancona wrote on the Web page for the Traditionalist American Knights. “They also will try to portray us as haters, ignorant. They will ignore the facts. Let me tell you they are the haters. They have engaged in a campaign to destroy our Race, culture, and heritage.”
Ancona also maintained a YouTube channel, where he posted videos encouraging people to join the KKK. In one 2015 video, Ancona filmed himself in a room addressing “the invisible empire” as well as those who were “on the fence” about joining the Klan. Another video alternates between images of Ancona and others in white robes burning crosses and statements about the Klan as a Christian organization; the entire thing is set to the ethereal vocals of bluegrass-country singer Alison Krauss on “I’ll Fly Away.”
The Post’s Abby Ohlheiser spoke to Ancona in 2015, after the online hacker group Anonymous leaked hundreds of names and social media accounts of people with ties to white supremacist groups. Ancona, who was among those listed, told The Post then that he was “one of the rare people” in the Klan to use his real name.
Ancona said that he thought many members who held sensitive jobs — he gave the example of police officers — would “make a fake account” to interact with other Klan members online.That being said, social media might be one of the few places online where it’s even possible to connect individuals to the Klan. Ancona said that his Klan organization “doesn’t have a computerized database [of members] that they could hack into” and that there’s no online list of donors he knows of — in part because online transaction sites like PayPal don’t allow hate groups to use their services. Ancona said he was confident there was no way Anonymous could access a thousand real names of Klan members, “unless they were getting the information directly from a member.”
The Kansas City Star also profiled Ancona in a 2015 series about the evolution of white nationalist groups. Ancona told the newspaper then that the Traditionalist American Knights was a Christian organization, not a hate group, and described a recent cross-burning ceremony in his back yard.
“The police kept their eye on us, and people were driving by and taking pictures, but we didn’t have a single incident,” Ancona told the newspaper. “It’s very touching. … It’s almost like a revival at a church. You kind of come away feeling on fire for Christ, and you want to go out and spread the word.”
The group in 2014 distributed fliers across St. Louis County targeting those who protested the shooting death of Michael Brown, a black teenager, by white Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.
“Attention: To the terrorists masquerading as ‘peaceful protesters!’” the fliers read. “You have awakened a sleeping giant. … We will use lethal force as provided under Missouri Law to defend ourselves. … You have been warned by the Ku Klux Klan!”
Shortly afterward, Ancona appeared on MSNBC to spar with “All In” host Chris Hayes, who asked whether the fliers were inciting violence. Ancona told Hayes that the leaflets were meant to educate people about their rights in the face of “terroristic threats” by protesters.
Among the many membership requirements listed on the Traditionalist American Knights website are specific guidelines about race:
“You must … believe that the White Race is the true chosen people of our Lord God and have dominion over all creatures of the earth as God deemed that it (the White Race) should,” the group stated. “[Members] must not date or be married to anyone outside the White Race. The applicant must not believe in the mixing of the races and must not have mixed-race children. This includes adopted or step-children.”
The group also required that prospective members submit a photo and $50 annual dues with their application.
“We will never, under no circumstances whatsoever, accept anyone that is homosexual, bisexual, atheist, or is not of a sane mind and soul,” the group stated.
This post, originally published on Feb. 12, has been updated.