The wife of a deceased Ku Klux Klan leader in Missouri admitted in court Friday to his 2017 shooting death after initially saying two years ago that her son was the murderer.
Now, she says her son didn’t help commit the homicide.
Malissa Ancona, 46, pleaded guilty in St. Francois County Circuit Court in Farmington, Missouri, to second-degree murder in the death of Frank Ancona Jr., the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported, as well as tampering with evidence and the abandonment of a corpse.
As part of her plea agreement with state prosecutors, she was sentenced to life in prison.
Ancona, who was 51 when he died in February 2017, was imperial wizard of the Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, which is believed to have only a few dozen members nationwide.
The group, based in Park Hills, Missouri, had a presence last year in South Dakota and Florida, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups. The Knights has had chapters in Idaho and Pennsylvania as well.
Frank Ancona Jr. was killed by gun shot wounds to the head, a coroner determined, after he was found dead on a bank of the Big River near Belgrade, Missouri, about 70 miles southwest of St. Louis.
Originally, Malissa Ancona, of Leadwood, Missouri, reported her husband missing. She then said that her son, Paul Jinkerson Jr. – the stepson of Frank Ancona Jr. – killed him while he was sleeping with a 9-millimeter handgun after he had asked for a divorce.
But she later changed her tune again in letters from jail, according to the Post-Dispatch. She said she was “under the influence” when she made her first statements and instead took the blame for the killing.
“I fired both shots that killed my husband,” the Post-Dispatch reported Malissa Ancona told a judge Friday.
In addition, Ancona admitted in court to cleaning the walls of their bedroom and disposing of bloody bedding and dumping Frank Ancona Jr.’s body near Belgrade, Missouri.
Jinkerson, 26, is facing first-degree murder charges and, also like Malissa Ancona, charges of abandoning a corpse and tampering with evidence. But Malissa Ancona said in court Friday that Jinkerson was not guilty of murder, only the other two crimes.
Frank Ancona Sr. testified in court that Malissa Ancona killed her son because he was going to leave his wife, the Post-Dispatch reported.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the number of Ku Klux Klan groups, around 30 in 2017, has plummeted.
On its website, the center says that the Klan has tried to form alliances with similar organizations, such as the League of the South and the National Socialist Movement, to “retain some semblance of relevance.”
Frank Ancona Jr. told the New York Times in an interview before his death that he had been a member of the Ku Klux Klan for 30 years and had founded the Traditionalist American Knights of the Klan in 2009.
The New York Times reported that Frank Ancona Jr.’s Ku Klux Klan faction, although not large in number, was successful in distributing pamphlets in the aftermath of the 2014 police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, that urged using “lethal force” against protesters.
The high-profile shooting brought attention to Frank Ancona Jr., who appeared on national television, to discuss how the race protests following a white police officer’s shooting of an unarmed black man had rallied KKK members.
Among other recent activity, the group under Frank Ancona Jr.’s leadership also passed out pamphlets in several towns in Maine, the Times reported.
In explaining his philosophy, he told the newspaper that his group is nonviolent, supports the separation of races and opposes what he called “equality propaganda.”
“They want to portray us as all toothless, redneck tobacco chewers,” Frank Ancona Jr told The Times. “Some of us are! But some of us are college educated. I am a business owner. … We just believe in promoting traditional American values.”
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