Richard Jones spent 17 years in prison for a crime he has always insisted he didn’t commit. Then attorneys discovered he had a doppelganger: a man who looked nearly identical to him and had a similar name.
On Thursday, Jones was released from prison after witnesses said they could barely tell the difference between the two men and no longer thought Jones was guilty.
Jones told the Kansas City Star that seeing the photo helped him finally understand what had confused and angered him for so many years.
“When I saw that picture, it just made sense to me,” Jones said. “They say you can’t see the picture clearly if you [are] in it, but if I was outside this picture I would have seen the same thing.”
Jones, a resident of Kansas City, Missouri, was charged with aggravated robbery in 1999, after an attempted purse-snatching in a Walmart parking lot resulted in a woman scraping her knee as three drug-addled men made off with her cell phone.
But Jones swore he didn’t know anything about the crime — which took place across the state line in Kansas City, Kansas — and was at home with family the day it occurred. Mandatory sentencing resulted in a 19-year term, which he appealed every chance he got. At the time of sentencing, Jones had two young daughters: one, a baby just a few months old.
Last week, Jones’ youngest daughter saw him for the first time she can remember. According to Jones’ attorney, the 17-year-old girl had tears in her eyes as she greeted her dad. Upon release Thursday, Jones met his young granddaughter as well.
In 2015, other inmates at Lansing Correctional Facility began telling Jones there was another inmate who looked like his twin. On top of being doppelgangers, the other man had the similar-sounding name of Rick.
Jones contacted attorneys at the Midwest Innocence Project and the Project for Innocence at the University of Kansas Law School. They tracked down Ricky Amos, the lookalike who lived on the Kansas side of town.
In booking photos, the two men looked nearly identical, with the same facial hair and cornrows. They are both close to 6-feet-tall and weigh around 200 pounds. The two men are also roughly the same age: Jones was born in 1976, while Kansas corrections records show Ricky Lee Amos was born in 1977.
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SOURCE: NBC News, Mary Emily O’Hara