Exonerated man in Arizona’s ‘Snaggletooth Killer’ case back in national spotlight
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — A huge Arizona True Crime case is back in the national spotlight. The man once known as the “Snaggletooth Killer,” then exonerated for the crime a decade later, is now sharing how his experience shaped his life to get him to where he is now. Ahead of an appearance on Investigation Discovery Tuesday, Ray Krone is giving Arizona’s Family a look at how a horrible mistake of the justice system changed the trajectory of his life forever.
Deemed around the nation as the “Snaggletooth Killer,” Krone became the face of a horrific Phoenix murder that happened three days before his arrest on New Year’s Eve as 1991 turned to 1992. The evidence? A bite mark on the victim that officials claimed matched Krone’s snaggletooth bite.
It was a rush to judgment that nearly took an innocent man’s life. The name is devastating enough. “The Snaggletooth Killer,” Krone recalled.
But Krone said no name could compare to the distress of being called a murderer when you didn’t commit the crime. “I’m innocent! Believe that! Ten years, three months and eight days later, it finally came out,” he said emphatically.
Krone frequented the CBS Restaurant and Lounge in Phoenix back in the day to play darts but said he was at home the night of the 1991 murder. The bartender working that night, 36-year-old Kim Ancona, was found dead the next day inside the men’s bathroom. There was a bite mark on Ancona, and in a matter of days, Krone was arrested for the murder. Why? Both police and prosecutors claimed his bite mark matched the one on Ancona’s body.
It was the only evidence used in the 1992 trial against him, yet the jury found him guilty, and he was sentenced to death. But after a procedural error, he was granted a new trial. Yet the jury found him guilty again based on that snaggletooth bite mark, and he was sentenced to life in prison. “It hurts when you first leave that courtroom and go back. I’m not getting out. I’m going to be in prison, God knows how long,” said Krone.
He all but thought he’d die in prison until technology changed. In 2002, DNA on Ancona and from the crime scene was tested and matched a man named Kenneth Phillips, who was already in prison for violent crimes. DNA was the key. “It saved my life. All the other evidence that had pointed to someone else did not matter,” said Krone.
He was in prison when his attorney called. It’s a moment that still chokes him up more than 20 years later. “He said I just got off the phone with the prosecutor’s office. They just got back from the judge’s chambers. They’re cutting the paperwork. You’re coming home today,” Krone recalled through tears.
In 2002, Krone became the 100th person exonerated and released from death row in the United States since 1976. That number now is close to 200 in 2023.
It’s why Krone has since dedicated his life to speaking around the world against wrongful conviction, working with organizations like the Justice Project, knowing while his story is shocking, it sadly isn’t a sole outlier. “There’s (sic) people just like me, ‘Ray Krones,’ in our prisons right now, that may never have that chance to be free,” he said.
Krone now has an A+ smile and has settled into life in Tennessee. He’s here now to tell other families that it’s never over ‘till it’s over. “Keep the faith, keep the strength. Maybe one day the Lord will bless you too, but you don’t give up, you don’t quit,” he said.
Krone said he cannot thank his supporters enough who stuck with him from his arrest to the day he was free, believing in his innocence. The episode on the ID channel Wednesday night is called “Crime Scene Confidential,” where Krone tells more of his story.
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