Malissa Ancona and Paul Jinkerson Jr. were charged February 13 with first-degree murder, armed criminal action, tampering with evidence and abandonment of a corpse.
After days of denying she knew anything about her husband's disappearance and sobbing dry-eyed on television news, Malissa had decided to talk to investigators, authorities say. She told detectives she and Jinkerson killed Frank during the early morning hours of February 9. Her son, she claimed, was the triggerman.
"Ms. Ancona admitted to me in an audio video recorded interview that her biological son Paul Edward Jinkerson Jr., shot and killed Frank Ancona while he was asleep in the master bedroom of the residence," St. Francois County Sheriff's Detective Matt Wampler wrote in a probable cause statement. "Ms. Ancona admitted that she failed to report the crime and additionally attempted to destroy blood evidence and altered the crime scene in an attempt to conceal the offense and was acting in concert with her son Paul Jinkerson Jr."
Malissa and her son entered pleas of not guilty last month during their initial court appearance.
Frank had been shot with a nine millimeter handgun and again with a shotgun, authorities say. Malissa told detectives they could find the handgun in the river near where Frank's body was discovered. The shotgun would be in a St. Francois County pond. Sure enough, the murder weapons were right where she'd promised, according to Jacobsen, the Washington County sheriff.
If she told the detective why they killed her husband, it is not mentioned in the court papers. But the neighbor, James Russell, recalls hearing a strange sound, like metal-on-metal banging, for hours on the morning Frank was murdered. He did not know what was going on. Later, when he heard police found the safe busted open, he figured he had his answer.
Malissa's attorney, Wayne Williams, did not respond to a request for comment on this story.
Some wonder if Malissa's rapid confession is an attempt to cover up an even darker reality. Paul Jinkerson Jr.'s father and siblings suspect he is being framed by his mother.
The 24-year-old was one of the few members of the family who had not completely cut ties with Malissa. A computer science student at Mineral Area College before he got hooked on meth and pills, Paul Jinkerson Jr. was into guitar and read books on creationism. He had probably never fired a gun in his life or even been in a fistfight, his father says.
"He was a geek," Paul Jinkerson Sr. says. "He wasn't somebody who would go out and do this."
There's no way he could be the triggerman, his family claims; he just did not have it in him. But they sound less certain when asked if it is possible he helped his mother try to cover up an act of violence on her part. Lauren Jinkerson says she does not think he would, partly because her brother liked Frank, who had once helped get him a job. Paul Jinkerson Sr. says the same, but he recalls a startling conversation with his son two weeks before the murder.
"He said kind of off-the-cuff that she [Malissa] wanted to kill Frank, and she wanted him to help her clean it up," the father says.
Paul Jinkerson Sr. flipped out when he heard that. He says his son assured him he flat-out refused to be involved in any way. They immediately drove to Malissa and Frank's house, where Paul Jinkerson Sr. told his son to grab a laptop he had left over there, because he was not going to be talking to his mother anymore.
Malissa was home, and it turned ugly once she realized what was happening. Everyone was yelling. She threatened to call her son's probation officer and get his probation revoked, according to her ex-husband.
"Fuck you," Paul Jinkerson Sr. screamed out the window of his car.
"Why don't you kill yourself?" his son added, directing it at his mom.
As they drove away, Paul Jinkerson Sr. warned his son that Malissa could be vindictive and he should stay the hell away from her. He thought that was the end of it until, two weeks later, he learned Frank had disappeared.
As the family searched for clues, they scanned Malissa's Facebook page and found she had posted a picture of Paul Jinkerson Jr. the night before Frank went missing. He had his eyes closed, and one of Malissa's cats was cuddled against his shoulder. He looks drugged, Lauren Jinkerson says later. Her father agrees. Malissa never posted pictures of her son on Facebook before. Paul Jinkerson Sr. thinks she was just trying to put their boy at the scene of the crime.
The family grew even more suspicious when Malissa's sister shared text messages Frank sent her on the last night of his life. He was at work, driving his route, when he suddenly felt an overwhelming urge to sleep and had to pull over. He blamed Malissa.
"I'm thinking it was her Klonopin she dissolved in my food probably because that stuff knocks me out..." he wrote.
Malissa had cooked pasta that night, Frank said in the messages. His had a different sauce, and it tasted so salty he could only eat only a few bites.
"I had to seriously wonder if she isn't trying to kill me drug me up so I will have an accident and she can collect my social security," he wrote.
Paul Jinkerson Sr. heard about those messages, looked at the bizarre picture of his oldest boy passed out on Malissa's couch and thought back to the heated exchange with Malissa two weeks before Frank was killed. He used to think she was all talk, Jinkerson Sr. says.
"In retrospect, I should have done so much more," he says. "I should have called Frank. I should have told Malissa we knew."