The week of Frank Ancona's disappearance unfolded strangely.
On Wednesday, February 8, the last day Frank was seen alive, his wife posted an ad on Facebook, seeking a new roommate.
"Looking for a roommate in leadwood...I have three dogs and a cat rescue so u must love animals..All bills and rent split..Message me for details," Malissa Ancona wrote.
That caught the attention of investigators.
That Thursday, Frank did not report to work, triggering his employer's call. But when police stopped by the house with Frank Jr. on Friday, Malissa was reluctant to let them enter. She had not filed a missing person report, she explained, because she thought Frank was leaving her. The last time she had seen him was about 6 a.m. on Wednesday, she said.
Leadwood police Chief William Dickey eventually talked her into letting them take a quick look around the house. Inside, they found a safe that looked like it had been pried open, but nothing else stood out among the mess. Malissa claimed the home may have been burglarized, but she had not bothered to report it.
Dickey also questioned her about the roommate ad.
"She stated she did it because when he said he was leaving to go out of state on this job, he took a bag of clothes with him and said when he got back he was filing for divorce," Dickey told the local paper, the Park Hills Daily Journal. "She told us she figured she would need help to pay the rent, so she put an ad out looking for a roommate."
It maybe seemed a little strange, but Dickey figured all they had for the time being was a missing person case. Frank was a grown man. Maybe he really had just walked out.
"It got suspicious later on Friday evening when the vehicle was located," Dickey tells the Riverfront Times.
A U.S. Forest Service worker had spotted Frank's Ford Fusion off an access road in a wooded stretch of Washington County. Nearby, investigators found a pile of burned clothes. Frank was still missing, but that too would soon change.
The next day, Saturday, a family planning to fish the Big River wandered down a footpath toward the water's edge. As they reached the gravel, they spotted the body. Frank had been stripped to his underwear and socks. He had been shot in the head.
Investigators from the St. Francois Sheriff's Department headed to the house in Leadwood — this time, armed with a search warrant. Inside the dimly lit rooms, they picked their way past a swirl of Malissa's cats and through a kitchen littered with trash and dirty dishes. They found what they were looking for at the back of the house in the master bedroom: blood splatter on the ceiling, blood soaked deep into the mattress.
Meanwhile, Washington County sheriff's detectives were serving more warrants at the home of Malissa's 24-year-old son, Paul Jinkerson Jr., in the small town of Belgrade. They found bloody clothes at his residence and blood inside his car, authorities say. Jinkerson, who had previously been convicted for possessing meth and was awaiting trial on charges he had helped break into car wash coin machines, was taken into custody on a probation violation.
As the investigation began to come into focus, detectives also discovered some interesting video from a Belgrade gas station situated near both the Big River and the wooded access road where they had found Frank's car. They scrolled through the surveillance camera footage from Thursday morning and spotted Malissa and Jinkerson driving past, Washington County Sheriff Zach Jacobsen says. They were in different vehicles — Frank's Ford Fusion and Jinkerson's Chevy Impala.
The cameras recorded them again a little while later. This time, mother and son were both in Jinkerson's car.
The KKK imperial wizard had grown desperate during the last months of his life.
Frank confided in friends and family members that his wife was addicted to prescription pills and had grown erratic. He had taken to locking his medications and valuables in a safe or hiding them in the trunk of his car. When he slept, he tucked the car keys into his pillowcase.
Publicly, Frank portrayed himself as the powerful leader of a clandestine, but righteous, organization, a representative of a silent majority of decent Americans who were fed up with the chaos they saw on the nightly news. His followers adopted "I am Darren Wilson" profile pictures on Facebook after the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson and scattered fliers in north St. Louis County that threatened "lethal force" should protesters take things too far.
"You have awakened a sleeping giant," the fliers warned.
No matter that hate group experts estimate Frank's Traditionalist American Knights, the KKK faction he founded in 2009, had maybe 40 members across the country at the height of its influence.
"We're basically going where we're being asked to," Frank told a Riverfront Times reporter in 2014. "We're being low-key. We're not trying to inflame any situation anywhere, but we're also letting it be known that we're here to help people if need be."
The Ferguson stunt earned Frank national attention, which was apparently the goal. Those who knew him say he cared deeply about crafting his public image and wanted everyone to know his name. He posted a video on his Klan website of him sparring on national television with MSNBC host Chris Hayes, and he told the New York Times, "We need to preserve the white race because we are the ones who keep civilization civilized."
Privately, he was literally living in shit.
"The house is so nasty it's not even fit for an animal to live in," he complained in an October message to his stepdaughter.
Malissa's ex-husband, Paul Jinkerson Sr., says Frank reached out to him for help several months ago. They used to see each other every once in a while at their kids' birthday parties and got along well. Jinkerson Sr. did not share Frank's racist ideology, but he considered him an otherwise decent, hardworking guy. He liked to tease his ex-wife and her new husband about the KKK, asking if it was like that scene in the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou? where a bunch of hooded Klansmen dance in unison by firelight.
"He knew I meant him no harm, so I was able to joke around with him," Jinkerson says.
Malissa and Jinkerson have been divorced more than twenty years. They were young when they married, and she had already begun to lean on prescription pills, he says. Malissa always had some kind of ailment that required a pile of medications. The explanations rarely checked out.
"Malissa is the kind of person who would tell you she had Lucky Charms for breakfast when she really had Cocoa Puffs," Jinkerson says.
The problems stemmed from childhood, he says. She was just four or five when her mother died suddenly after a hysterectomy went bad. Her late father was an alcoholic "piece of shit" who abused her, Jinkerson says. The trauma apparently left Malissa rootless and eager to fit in. (Jinkerson is sympathetic to a point, but says she's now old enough to be responsible for her actions.)
Malissa's new identity as a bigot amused her ex-husband. He says she had dated black men back in the 1990s in St. Louis but had apparently forgotten all that in her new role as a fervent Klan wife. She was a capable seamstress — her specialty was tutus for little girls — and she had begun sewing robes and patches for the KKK.
"You know that line in the Elton John song 'Tiny Dancer' — 'the seamstress for the band?'" Jinkerson asks, quoting the lyrics. "I would call her 'the Seamstress for the Klan.'"
But Frank was not joking around when he called Jinkerson on the phone about six months ago. The filth of the house, the pills and the stealing had become too much for Frank to bear. He wanted to know, would Jinkerson consider taking Malissa back?
"I was like, 'You're out of your mind,'" Jinkerson recalls. "I guess he thought for a brief, fleeting moment that I would alleviate his pain and take her off his hands."
Frank did not have any better luck with Malissa's grown children. He traded messages with her daughter, 25-year-old Lauren Jinkerson, in October.
"Is there anybody in your family that will let your mother [move] with them," he asked. "I cannot take her being around me another minute her life her drug-dealing her stealing... I can't take anymore of it and she needs a place to go ASAP."
Frank told Lauren he suspected Malissa slipped the blood pressure medicine Clonidine into his coffee, knocking him out so she could steal his medication.
"Really what she did could be considered attempted murder i think," he wrote. "I can barely move or think straight right now.....very weak dizzy and blurred vision."
Lauren advised Frank to throw Malissa out. The Klan wizard said he was ready, but he worried she would hurt herself, call the cops and frame him for spousal abuse. "It's like I'm a prisoner in my own home," he wrote.
Frank had said similar things in the past. He and Malissa were always threatening to split up or move out, relatives say, but it never seemed to happen. Even as he described being drugged and living with constant anxiety, he told his stepdaughter he loved his wife. Lauren, who has one child and a baby on the way, felt no such bond to her mother. During one of their last interactions, Malissa told Lauren she hoped she and her baby would die in childbirth.
Frank should be careful, Lauren warned her stepdad during their October exchange. "She's a huge drug addict, and you need to get rid of her or else she'll drug you one day and she'll kill you instead."