Johnson County man freed 17 years later after lookalike becomes - KCTV5

Johnson County man freed 17 years later after lookalike becomes suspect in robbery

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Richard Jones is free after 17 years. He was sent to prison for a purse snatching outside a Walmart where a woman was injured. (Midwest Innocence Project) Richard Jones is free after 17 years. He was sent to prison for a purse snatching outside a Walmart where a woman was injured. (Midwest Innocence Project)
The mugshots of Jones and his look-a-like named “Ricky” grabbed national attention.  (Midwest Innocence Project) The mugshots of Jones and his look-a-like named “Ricky” grabbed national attention. (Midwest Innocence Project)
ROELAND PARK, KS (KCTV) -

KCTV5 News is revealing new details and information in case that stunned Johnson County prosecutors.

Richard Jones is free after 17 years. He was sent to prison for a purse snatching outside a Walmart where a woman was injured.

The Midwest Innocence Project found a look-a-like who actually has close connections to the crime and prosecutors agree.

The mugshots of Jones and his look-a-like named “Ricky” grabbed national attention.

What happened

A woman was robbed at the Walmart in Roeland Park. It was considered an aggravated robbery because she was injured.

Roeland Park police showed up first and contacted the Johnson County Sheriff’s Department which handled the investigation. Kansas City, KS police helped with the lineup.

A witness told police an African American man with light skin was responsible, and he heard the name “Ricky.”

Police traced the license plate on the robber’s car. The owner directed detectives to a person who borrowed his car. That driver told police he met “Ricky” for the first time that day. He picked up "Ricky" at a house in KCK and drove him to Walmart because he needed money to buy drugs.

Richard becomes the suspect

Police took the driver to KCK police headquarters to flip through mugshots. The driver flipped through more than 200 pictures before he spotted Jones.

“I was like, 'I haven't done anything in Johnson County,'” said Jones, who had previously been arrested in KCK.

Jones actually had an alibi that day. He was grilling with family and friends, and he didn’t even live in KCK. He lived in nearby Kansas City, MO. The problem is no one believe him, and he matched the description. Witnesses even picked him out a lineup

“I thought the truth would come out. There's no way they could convict me for a crime I didn't commit. When they said guilty, it was like I was stabbed in the heart. I broke down and cried. I don’t cry a lot but I cried that day,” said Jones.

What you don’t know about the case

Lawyers are very critical of the lineup that was shown to witnesses. They say Jones is the only person who fit the suspect’s description.

“Mr. Jones was the only person in the lineup of six photos with light skin. He was the only person with light background. Everyone else had a dark background in the photo. When the witnesses were looking at that, he was the only person in the lineup that matched the description of the person who committed the crime,” said Alice Craig, and lawyer with the University of Kansas.

Jones says he was stunned to see the lineup. He sighed and called it disrespectful.

The other lawyer on the says no one double checked the facts.

“That's what happened in this case. No one went and looked. Nobody knocked on the door! Nobody knocked on the door. We know Ricky got picked up at this house. Nobody knocked on the door ... not the police, not the defense attorney,” said Tricia Bushnell with the Midwest Innocence Project.

Law students who worked with the lawyers through the University of Kansas Law School and the Midwest Innocence Project discovered that if someone had done that they would have discovered another man named “Ricky” lived there, and that Ricky also matches the description provided by witnesses.

Law students took current mug shots to the original witnesses.


The mugshots of Richard Jones, right, and his look-a-like named “Ricky” grabbed national attention. (Midwest Innocence Project?)


“If you had been shown these two photographs, could you have selected between these two individuals? All of them said, 'No.' And most of them thought it was the same person in the two photos,” said Craig.

Look-a-likes together in Lansing

Jones says he didn’t talk about his “innocence” in prison, joking that everyone claims they are innocent.

He says things started to click together when a fellow prisoner told him he knew he didn’t do the crime.

“I know who did it. He told me the guy's name. He said, 'You look just like this guy,'” said Jones.

His doppelganger was in the same prison at the same time. Which helped explain all the confusion among prisoners.

“I just seen you and called your name and you didn't answer! And I was like. 'I've been in this cell all day!  I haven't been out,'” said Jones.

Jones never tracked down "Ricky." It was interns who found mug shots.

“I understood what happened as soon as I seen those pictures it made sense to me,” said Jones.

Jones lost out on 17 years of his life.

“I don't hold any grudges when I saw the picture it just made sense to me. People can make mistakes; we are all human,” said Jones

Midwest Innocence Project

The Midwest Innocence Project says 77 percent of their cases hinge on bad identifications. They prove innocence with DNA or other hard evidence. In this case, they provided prosecutors a better suspect.

They can’t represent everyone and because the legal process is so long they only take cases where prisoners have at least seven years left.

They estimate there could be 7,000 innocent people sitting in Midwest prisons.

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