About Face

Spring is coming, and buds now speckle the granite gray woods of southeastern Pennsylvania with forest green. The sun is shining, the melting snow is glaring. It's all so bright that Ray Krone needs sunglasses.

He'd like some Oakleys. Something functional but stylish to go with the new hair and Chiclet-white new teeth he got from the television show Extreme Makeover. You know, something to wear on the way to all those speaking engagements. He will soon break out his sky-blue, mint-condition 1974 Corvette from the shed.

Off with the top. Spring air. New hair. Styling. Cruising.

It's a significant improvement over Arizona's death row -- where he lived from 1992 to 1995, after he was wrongfully convicted of the brutal murder of a cocktail waitress at a downtown Phoenix bar.

In 1995, he received a new trial, but then was reconvicted based almost completely on the word of a bite-mark expert who nine other forensic dentists said was wrong.

Even the judge, who gave Krone life imprisonment instead of the death penalty he had received at the conclusion of his first trial, was aware something was wrong:

"The court is left with a residual or lingering doubt about the clear identity of the killer," Superior Court Judge James McDougall wrote after sentencing.

It took six more years before a judge forced the police and prosecutors to turn over evidence in the case for retesting.

Numerous pieces of that evidence, which Phoenix police and Maricopa County prosecutors had been sitting on for 10 years, not only showed no link between Krone and the murder, it all clearly pointed to another man, Kenneth Phillips.

Krone was released from prison in 2002, fully exonerated.

He just won a $1.4 million settlement from Maricopa County for the bad work of county prosecutors. He still has a case against the City of Phoenix, which should bring him millions more for the stunning ineptitude of police and lab technicians in the case.

He plans to buy a farm near his Pennsylvania hometown and far away from the state that incarcerated him.

So, yes, he's happy -- most of the time.

And, yes, he can forgive -- most of the time.

But it's still situational forgiveness. How could it not be?

Just drop the name Noel Levy, the county prosecutor who slaughtered Krone's character and ignored testimony from genuine dental experts while twice landing a wrongful murder conviction on him.

Or Phoenix Police Department homicide detective Charles Gregory, who also ignored evidence pointing to the real killer.

Or forensic dental expert Ray Rawson, whose bogus testimony was the foundation of both of Krone's convictions.

Or crime lab technician Scott Piette, who for some reason never tested hair, blood and fingerprints taken from the crime scene that were left by the man now believed to have committed the murder, Kenneth Phillips, who is already in prison for other violent sex crimes.

As Krone learns more through his lawsuit against the City of Phoenix and Maricopa County, filed in 2002 soon after he was set free, it becomes clearer that these four men -- Levy, Gregory, Rawson and Piette -- are the reason Krone spent a decade in prison for a murder he did not commit.

A nor'easter is crawling up the coast toward eastern Pennsylvania this spring day, and Krone's knuckles turn white on the steering wheel.

It's the taxpayers who will have to pay for the incompetence of these men, he growls. It should be these guys who pay, he says. They should taste just a few moments of the decade of hell they put him through. Something.

"You know, if it was just a series of mistakes, and these guys would have stood up and apologized, I think I could completely get over it," he says as he drives. "But that's not what happened. They grabbed me and then built a case out of nothing, and then they covered it up. As I'm forced to see more clearly what they did to me, it's really tough not to be angry.

"And beyond that, as a citizen, it's just scary as hell."


Because as more is learned about the investigation and first conviction of Ray Krone in 1992 for the brutal murder of Kim Ancona, the more it becomes clear that police and prosecutors could have grabbed just about any Valley resident and escorted him to death row.

Just as bad, Phoenix police ignored numerous clues that pointed to the actual killer, Phillips, thereby leaving him on the streets to strike again.

Krone didn't lose 10 years, four months and eight days of his life. He had them stolen.

But here's the funny thing. Because local police and prosecutors screwed up so badly, because Krone was such a straight-up citizen when he got tossed on death row, because Krone learned so much living for 10 years with killers and gang-bangers while fighting for his freedom, because he was the 100th American freed after time on death row, he now is a highly sought and increasingly well-paid speaker on the topic of American crime and punishment.

Hell, he even spoke to the United Nations.

And he speaks very well. And now, with straight teeth, smooth skin and new hair, he's preppy good-looking.

He looks so much better now that you realize how lucky he was not to be this attractive in prison.

And this can be his new life, if he can keep anger from eating him up.

His knuckles take the color of flesh again. He sees an old pub he used to frequent with buddies back in the late '70s. He pulls in. He enters, and people turn to him, smile and welcome him like he's a squire.

And so he's back to what he has going for him, not what was taken.

"I am so lucky -- family, friends, everything now," he says. "It's just a matter of focusing on what is and not what was."

Kim Ancona had spent much of December 28, 1991, lying around the apartment with her live-in boyfriend. He later told Phoenix police that he and Ancona had made love three times before she went to work that evening at the CBS Lounge near 16th Street and Camelback Road.

Delores Kirkland, one of Ancona's best friends, was interviewed by Phoenix police the next morning. Kirkland said she had been in the CBS from about 10:30 p.m. until after closing at 1 a.m. Kirkland told police that not long before closing, Ancona had declined to serve a male Native American who was sitting alone because he was extremely intoxicated. Kirkland described the man as about five feet six inches tall; heavyset; between 30 and 35 years old, wearing shoulder-length black hair and clad in blue jeans.

Kirkland and two other friends of Ancona's left the bar at 1:10 a.m. Ancona asked one of the friends if he wanted to stay while she cleaned up. The friend asked Ancona if she needed help cleaning. She said no, and he decided to leave.

On December 29, 1991, a man later identified as Robert Fredrickson left a note for Phoenix homicide detectives. Fredrickson's note and numerous new pieces of evidence have been obtained as part of Krone's civil complaint against the City of Phoenix.

"Your [sic] looking for an Indian about 5'8" to 6'1". I seen him about 3:30 and 4:30 hanging around back of CBS, about 190-210 -- get him please. Black Hair -- Fat Looking -- Blue Jeans -- I was too far away to make him out good -- his face -- I don't want to go to jail or I would come forward -- I have a warrant [sic]."

Another witness, David Hensen, told police he saw a Native American male hanging around the vicinity of the CBS Lounge about 2 o'clock on the morning of December 29.

Other witnesses at the bar noted that a short, heavyset Native American guy with long black hair had been hovering around Kim Ancona as she served drinks.

Also, a woman who lived in the neighborhood reported to police that, 10 days before the murder, an "Oriental or Mexican male," about five feet eight inches tall, weighing 150 pounds and wearing long, straight black hair and no facial hair, had followed her while she was walking in the shopping center that houses the CBS Lounge. When the woman stopped to tie her shoes, the man came up to her and began shouting that he wanted to "fuck" her.

Kenneth Phillips, a short, heavyset, full-blooded Hopi with long black hair, lived less than half a mile from the CBS. Phillips couldn't go far from his home because he was on intensive probation for breaking into a neighbor woman's house and choking her while threatening to kill her.

Three weeks later, Phillips was arrested for sexually assaulting and attempting to strangle a 7-year-old girl. (Phillips, who is already in prison, has yet to be tried for Ancona's murder.)

The morning of December 29, Kim Ancona's body was found face up in a pool of blood in the men's restroom of the CBS Lounge.

She had been sexually molested and stabbed in the back several times. She was naked except for her dark blue socks. There were marks across her neck as though someone had held a knife hard to her neck.

It appeared she was stabbed from behind, stripped, thrown to the floor and raped as a knife was held to her throat to keep her quiet. She probably bled to death as she was being sexually assaulted, since an autopsy revealed that her left lung was filled with blood.

The knife used to kill Ancona had come from the lounge's kitchen.

Police investigators found 14 shoe prints in the kitchen area leading to and from the area where the knife used in the killing was kept.

The shoe prints were first determined to have been made by a size 9 1/2 to 10 1/2 Converse brand athletic shoe.

Phillips left fingerprints at the scene. Four of his hairs were found on Ancona's back, including one on a naked buttock.

Ancona had cleaned the floor just before she was attacked.

There was a drop of Phillips' blood on her panties.

These incriminating pieces of evidence, however, were ignored -- or buried -- for years after the murder investigation.

Phillips was not then investigated.

There was a jagged bite mark on Kim Ancona's left breast.

Gregory and another detective searched through Ancona's belongings the day after her body was found. They found her telephone book. Police say they found Ray Krone's number in that book.

The odd thing: The handwriting used to write Krone's number in the book doesn't look like Kim Ancona's.

One of Ancona's friends told police that, days earlier, when a group of friends and bar patrons went together to a Christmas party, Ancona had received a ride to the party from Ray Krone.

An acquaintance of Ancona's also told police that Ancona had told her she might be meeting someone after the bar closed. The acquaintance said she thought the guy's name was Ray.

Ancona's close friends told police she never mentioned any such after-work meeting.

At 2 p.m. on December 29, 1991, Detective Gregory visited Krone, who had no criminal history of any kind, at his home.

Gregory noted that Krone's upper teeth were extremely uneven.

At this point, almost everyone involved in the case understands how Phoenix police could consider Ray Krone a possible suspect.

But from that afternoon on, all signs led away from Ray Krone -- and cops and lab technicians and prosecutors ignored them all.

Krone said he sometimes played darts at the CBS Lounge. Ancona was an acquaintance, he told police, but they were not dating. He had once driven her to a Christmas party.

Krone's roommate informed authorities that Krone was home all night. Krone's shoes were all size 11, not 9 1/2 to 10 1/2 -- and he owned no Converse sneakers.

Gregory took Krone to Phoenix police headquarters for an interview.

"I'm there for two hours and 45 minutes," Krone recalls. "It's just going on and on, and he's asking me the same questions. Then he asks me for a hair sample, and they pull on different parts of my head for 15 minutes. So, you know, that's unpleasant. Then he's sitting there calling me a liar the whole time. Then he wants bite marks. So I bite into Styrofoam and they have me moving my mouth forward and backward and all around.

"When that's done, Gregory says, 'Now I'm going to take your blood.' I said, 'No you're not,' and he gets mad. He pulls out this search warrant with everything circled on it and says he's taking my blood. I wanted a nurse to take it, not this guy, because I'm not liking this guy much and don't trust him, and I don't want him poking me with no needle."

A nurse came in and drew Krone's blood.

Then Gregory got tough.

"He says, 'I know you're lying,'" Krone continues. "'We have people who say you had her over for dinner. We have people who know you took her to a Christmas party. It's time to come clean.'"

Krone had had enough.

"I said, 'Get whoever is saying this in here, and we'll introduce ourselves and get this straightened out. That isn't true. Talk to them. Where'd they hear this? I mean, get out there and do your damn job!'"

As the interview dragged on, Krone began to express more and more anger toward Gregory's questions.

Gregory clearly didn't appreciate Krone's insolence.

Based on a New Times review of police records in the case, it seems clear that Gregory, then others in the justice system, fell into what psychologists call "target fixation."

They began to believe that Ray Krone was the only possible culprit. They aimed their investigation toward finding only evidence that pointed to Krone as the killer.

They seemed to ignore any evidence, or any testimony, that pointed away from Krone.

They used a less-than-well-trained lab technician, Scott Piette, and a dentist, Ray Rawson, to create a façade of scientific credibility on evidence that more credible scientists stated emphatically was bogus.

This is how it happened. This is how an innocent man went to death row in America.

One day a policeman came to Ray Krone's door asking questions, and a few days later he was sitting in jail, and a few months later he was labeled a murderer, and a few weeks after that, he was in solitary confinement getting told he's going to be executed by lethal injection or, if he chose, poison gas.

By the end of 1992, Krone was having trouble remaining an optimist.

"That was a bad year," he says, smiling at the obvious understatement. "It's tough to keep your spirits up when you're on that kind of roll."

Still, he figured the truth would soon come out.

But the bad roll lasted 3,769 days.

It has been several months since Ray Krone appeared on ABC's Extreme Makeover.

His teeth were the focus of the show. He was wrongly convicted of murder primarily on Ray Rawson's contention that his crooked teeth matched the bite mark on Kim Ancona's left breast. The press labeled him the Snaggletooth Killer after his arrest in 1992.

The show's producers called him last year asking him to send in an application. Krone decided to play along. Amy Wilkinson, his sister, shot a four-minute video of him talking about his history.

In November, Krone got the word that he had been chosen to spend two months in Hollywood having his appearance reconstructed.

"There was a lot of anxiety; it didn't seem right," he says. But he says he considered the viewership of the show -- an estimated six and a half million people -- and figured it was his best chance ever to get out his message about the need for criminal justice reform.

"That was just too good of a forum to pass up," he says.

Four of his teeth were pulled. He received 17 caps.

The hair implant procedure took 10 hours.

He received a toupee to cover the hair implants until they grew out.

He was fed healthful food, he worked out with world-renowned trainers.

He was presented to his family on January 19 at a ballroom in Hollywood.

His family was impressed. They just hoped he hadn't changed inside.

"You know, we were fine with him the way he was," his mother says.

In the months since appearing on the show, Krone's belly has pooched out from drinking beer with his old hometown buddies and eating dinners at his mom and stepdad's house. He admits he gets stuck in the winter funk of southeastern Pennsylvania.

The point is, though he walked out of prison emaciated, all that's changed in nearly three years back in Dover.

"Now, guys just like to sit around in their garages drinking beer and talking," he says. "I've got to be careful or this gut will get pretty nasty."

So it's off to the Dover YMCA one morning. He pulls off his toupee, throws on some crapped-out gym clothes. It's time to get real.

At the Y, he asks the front-desk clerk about memberships. She tells him she knows his face from television, she knows his story from the local newspaper.

In the weight room, he draws the same stares he draws all over the pre-Revolutionary War township of 20,000 residents where he was raised.

He is comfortable with the weights. Krone is wiry strong. He was a wrestler in high school. And in blue-collar Pennsylvania, wrestling, along with football and anything else that involves rough play, is king.

His body, and his upbringing, helped protect him in prison.

"I guess I could play the part [of con] pretty well," he says.

Now, though, he's a little bit Hollywood, too.

He takes two dumbbells and lifts them up in a military press, then rotates his hands and brings them down out in front of his body.

"My trainer in California taught me that one," he says. "He said he learned it from Arnold Schwarzenegger. [The trainer told him:] 'Do it and you, too, can look like Ahh-nawld.'"

He smiles, and his perfect row of porcelain twinkles in the harsh fluorescent light.

He purses his lips as if a little embarrassed about the perfection.

"I'm still not quite comfortable with it all," he says. "It's still not me exactly."

Krone is staying in a small house his great-grandfather built on land the family still owns. He grew up in a house just a few blocks from where he lives now. His father still lives there.

His mother and father divorced in the early 1990s. His mother, Carolyn, later married Jim Leming.

Together, Carolyn and Jim spent about six years and $200,000 of money they didn't have trying to get Ray freed from prison. They lived in a friend's cabin down by a nearby river as they sold off their property to pay Ray's legal bills.

Once Ray was released, they bought a run-down old house in the country and remodeled it. Now they have a cozy home where Krone often goes for some of his mother's cooking.

He loves people in his hometown. Everybody has been great to him. But, then again, he's getting that itch again to travel. There's more than the obvious reason that he got a tattoo that says "Freebird" after his release from prison.

"I guess I like to keep on the move, see new things," he says. "But it's tough. This really is my home. These are the people I care about the most."

After high school, Krone left Dover to join the Air Force. He ended up at Luke Air Force Base working on computers. When he left the service, he decided to stay in Arizona.

"I loved it there," he says.

After the Air Force, Krone worked for the U.S. Postal Service as a mail carrier. By 1991, he was a tenured employee making about $30,000 a year, a nice salary at the time for a bachelor.

His mom was hoping the 34-year-old might finally settle down.

But Ray still enjoyed his friends more than the idea of a wife and kids. He liked to travel, make his own schedule. And he loved playing darts with his friends, who, together, won numerous dart tournaments across the Valley in the 1980s.

That's why he was frequenting the CBS Lounge. He could walk over there from his house and play darts.

Sometimes Kim Ancona would serve him beers. They talked, she once rode with him to a Christmas party that a group from the bar was attending.

But they were never romantically involved, he says.

"[The trouble] all came from her hitching a ride with me to a party," he says. "[The cops] heard that, they looked at my teeth, and they ran from there."

For most of the past 15 years, Ray Krone has focused most of his bitterness toward police and prosecutors.

In the past two years, though, he has come to increasingly realize that, even though the cops and county attorneys screwed up and apparently tried to cover their tracks, they were also being badly misguided by police scientists.

To the extent they knew they were being misguided may never be known.

The most damaging and shoddy work in the case was done by Phoenix police crime lab technician Scott Piette.

Piette, who is now studying osteopathic medicine at a college in Philadelphia, did not return phone calls from New Times for comment on this story.

From a New Times analysis of his work in the case, it's clear that Piette had in his hands in early 1992 the means to both immediately exonerate Krone and immediately indict Kenneth Phillips.

Instead, he at best ignored the evidence pointing to Phillips while focusing on bits of hair that, analysis showed, actually could have come from any Caucasian in the world.

But Piette stated that fact differently. He said these Caucasian hairs were "consistent" with Krone's hair.

The devil is in the details of Piette's work.

For example, 17 human hairs were taken from Kim Ancona's body and turned over to Piette at the police crime lab.

The hairs were given designations of 15A through 15Q.

The ones labeled 15A through 15L, according to a police diagram of Ancona's body, came from her chest and belly. Three -- 15N, 15O and 15P -- came from her lower back.

The 17th hair, 15Q, should have screamed at investigators.

It was a long, straight black hair, clearly different from the others. It was found along the crease of her left buttock.

Its location suggested it had clung to her body after her clothes were removed. The floor had been cleaned before the attack, so its location would suggest it came from the killer.

Unlike the other hairs, 15Q also had what investigators call a "root sheath" or "skin tag," material from the follicle that could -- even in 1992 -- be tested for DNA.

Piette's lab notes, reviewed by New Times, are terse and mundane.

At the top, Piette writes "item #A-Q."

He then writes an inventory and analysis of each item below:

The report ends at P.

Q was never analyzed by Piette at the time, or at least never reported.

It was not analyzed until 11 years later, on August 11, 2003, when new crime lab investigators reexamined the evidence from the case, found the hair, and determined that it came from Phillips.

None of these hairs analyzed by Piette matched Krone's. They were, however, deemed to be hair from a white person (at the most basic level of analysis, hairs are identified as Caucasian, Negroid or Mongoloid).

Piette and then his Phoenix police supervisors described their finding as such: Analysis "found the hairs matched victim and Krone." Piette said the hair was "indistinguishable" from Krone's, even though it could have come from any white person.

Piette's words were what the jury heard before convicting Krone of the murder in 1992.

Piette also analyzed, or was supposed to analyze, any blood from the scene.

On Piette's official report, dated February 21, 1992, he stated that he examined Ancona's panties, and "No blood was detected on the woman's underwear."

So jurors in the first trial were led to believe there was no blood evidence.

In 1995, though, a second analysis of the panties by FBI scientists showed droplets of blood. The blood, the FBI proved then, didn't come from Ancona or Krone.

(That blood was again tested seven years later against a database of Arizona prison inmates. The blood matched that of Phillips, who was in prison for attempting to molest a child shortly after Ancona's murder.)

The fact that the blood didn't match Ancona's or Krone's was presented at Krone's second trial in 1995, which he got because the first conviction was thrown out on a technicality.

But the blood evidence apparently didn't matter to the jury.

That's because Ray Rawson swore again at the second trial that Krone's teeth matched the bite mark on Ancona's breast.

Since his release, knowing what he now knows, Krone has also grown to loathe Ray Rawson.

He says, "I don't know how the guy sleeps at night."

Forensic dentistry expert Skip Sperber wonders the same thing, as do several other leaders in the nation's forensic dentistry community.

"What Rawson did is despicable," Sperber says in a phone interview from Southern California. "He made a lot of money wronging Ray Krone [more than $50,000 -- 10 times more than the average forensic expert would have made testifying]. If he had any humanity, he'd give the money he made off that case back to Arizona and call Ray Krone and apologize."

"I'm still flabbergasted," says Dick Souviron, a leading forensic dentist in Florida who also reviewed the dental evidence against Krone that Rawson used to help convict Ray. "It was so clear, so obvious that Ray Krone's teeth didn't match the wound. But Rawson went right ahead saying it did. Stunning!"

Before Ray Rawson, there was John Piakis, a local dentist who served as the on-call forensic dentist for the city.

Piakis had no experience examining bite marks, no certification from any relevant board and was not a member of the American Board of Forensic Odontology. All Piakis had done was take a five-day class.

Piakis, still a dentist in Phoenix, also did not respond to requests for comment.

Piakis, although unqualified to assess the bite marks on Kim Ancona's breast, did say Krone's teeth matched the marks. His assessment was key to prosecutors' getting an indictment from the grand jury.

Prosecutors then went to a judge to block any bail for Krone. They succeeded in getting Krone held without bail by telling judge Michael Jones that "forensic evidence showed that the bite marks exactly matched the dental marks on the defendant."

But police and prosecutors decided they needed a better witness than Piakis for the trial. So Piakis suggested sending the evidence to one of his former dental instructors who was a leader in the field of forensic dentistry.

The evidence went to Skip Sperber, the man who started the National Identification System with the FBI and who's considered the father of forensic dentistry.

And Sperber wound up sending the evidence back, saying he could not endorse Piakis' opinion.

In fact, Sperber said Krone was not the person who made the bite marks on Ancona's breast.

"It could not have been clearer," Sperber says. "Ray Krone had two higher teeth than his incisors that would have marked when he bit. Those weren't there in the evidence."

Krone's defense attorney and jurors weren't told of Sperber's assessment.

Instead, prosecutors hired Ray Rawson, a Nevada dentist who, in a similar case before Krone's trial, had testified that a suspect's teeth matched marks on a victim's body that later were determined not to be teeth marks at all.

It also didn't bother prosecutors that a national study showed that bite-mark investigations resulting in positive matches were wrong two-thirds of the time.

Instead, one day before the first trial started in 1992, prosecutors notified Krone's defense attorney that prosecutors intended to use a videotape prepared by Rawson labeled "Bite Mark Evidence Ray Krone."

In the high-tech video, which Rawson narrated for jurors during the trial, CAT scans of Krone's dental casts, the Styrofoam impressions, and the dental casts themselves were shown overlaid on the bite wounds on Kim Ancona's breast.

Rawson also presented a 39-page color-illustrated report in which he concluded: "It is the opinion of this investigator that the teeth of Ray Krone did cause the injuries on the body of Kimberly Ancona to a reasonable medical certainty. This represents the highest order of confidence that no other person caused the bite mark injuries."

Rawson wooed the jurors. Krone ended up on death row.

In 1995, Krone got his second trial because a judge ruled that his defense in the first trial wasn't given enough time to mount a counterattack to Rawson's wizardry.

Before the second trial, Krone's new attorney, Chris Plourd, with the help of a cousin of Krone's, Jim Rix, went around the country showing photos and other pieces of bite-mark evidence in the case to the nation's top forensic dentists.

Nobody agreed with Rawson's assessment that Krone's teeth were responsible for the bite mark.

Before the trial, Krone's attorneys asked for the critical piece of bite-mark evidence, Kim Ancona's left breast, so it could be analyzed by competent forensic dentists.

They were told the breast had been lost.

It is still conveniently lost to this day.

Before Krone's second trial in 1995, prosecutors spoke with Sperber about his earlier assessment of Rawson's and Piatis' work.

"We all met at Chris Plourd's office," Sperber says. "[Prosecutor Noel] Levy just asked that I explain to him why I said what I did about the evidence. Then he ignored me.

"There were nine other leaders in the field saying Krone's teeth didn't match. Both Rawson and the prosecutors knew that. But they went forward anyway."

In the second trial, Plourd shredded the work of Piakis, Gregory, Piette and Rawson.

But Rawson testified again. He again stated that Krone was the man responsible for the bite marks.

Jurors afterward said it was Rawson's testimony that led them to reconvict Krone.

"I have never been shaken as badly as I was after that," Plourd recalls. "I still can't believe that all happened in a civilized society."

The forensic dentistry community also was stunned. And those who had reviewed the evidence were just plain mad.

Dick Souviron, the Florida dental expert, says he approached Rawson at a national convention before the second trial to talk about the Krone case. Souviron had looked at the evidence. He said it was clear, particularly from Krone's bottom teeth, that he was not the person who made the bite.

Souviron says he told Ray Rawson he needed to "get out of that case."

"He said, 'I know, but I'm in too deep,'" Souviron quotes Rawson as responding.

"I was shocked," Souviron says.

But Souviron didn't call Plourd, he says, because he figured "Krone was sure to be exonerated." When Krone was convicted again, Souviron told Plourd about the conversation and signed an affidavit detailing what Rawson told him.

Rawson denied in a letter to a national board of forensic medicine that he ever made the comment to Souviron.

Souviron scoffs at the idea that he fabricated Rawson's comments:

"What, I'm going to risk my credibility making that up?! He said it. All of this is just sick. It just plain makes me sick."

If anything besides his teeth has defined Ray Krone over the past 15 years, it's his optimism. Even on death row, he firmly believed that "the system would fix itself." Even after the second trial.

Even as the late '90s rolled into the early 21st century, even when it seemed nobody would ever be allowed to take a new look at the evidence.

He says he didn't fear death because he for some reason had "faith in the system" that put him there.

That doesn't mean, though, that he wasn't deeply depressed. After years with friends and family all around, he was alone in a tiny cell.

"It's so difficult to describe what happens to you [in prison]," he says. "So much of you just goes dead."

He spent some of his days building a model clipper ship, a piece of intricate craftsmanship that now is the centerpiece of his mother and stepdad's remodeled living room near Dover.

Every so often, he'd play Dungeons & Dragons with the other members of death row. One of the inmates rewired a boom box and several headphones into a string of headsets. After guards had completed their walk-through, inmates would reach through the bars and pass the string of headsets to the other players. One of the men would be the dungeon master and roll the homemade die made of soap.

"It was actually kind of fun," Krone says.

He also had a typewriter. He would write to family and friends. He would type letters asking for help.

Every so often, someone would be moved from death row to a separate holding area. A few weeks later, he would hear that the man had been executed.

In 1995, he was moved to Maricopa County jail for his second trial. As strange as it may seem, he began to miss death row.

"On trial days, they'd throw me into a holding tank with a bunch of drunks about 1 a.m.," he says. "I'd sit there until the next morning, or sometimes the next afternoon, whenever I'd go to court. It was hell. They seemed to want me to look and smell like crap."

After he was convicted again, he returned to Florence with his new life sentence. There, he was placed in the general population. He was stabbed once, he got into a few fights, but for the most part, he quickly learned how to survive in the yard.

"There's a clear prison code," he says. "Sometimes I still find myself living by it."

For example, in prison, the worst word you can say is "punk." If you are called a punk, you had better fight or inmates will begin treating you as if you really are a punk.

Krone recently threw a friend against a wall after his buddy called him a punk.

"He didn't mean anything by it," Krone says. "But I just jumped at him. It was ridiculous what I did. I haven't got rid of all the prison in me yet."

But life was better in general population. He made friends. He settled into the calm grind of life for guys doing hard time.

His mother, stepdad and sister came to visit as much as possible. Old friends came down from Phoenix when they could. Plourd, his attorney, came to see him.

To every visitor, he'd put on the happiest face he could.

"I knew it was tearing them up," he says. "So, you know, I wanted to be positive and upbeat with them. I didn't want them worrying more than they already were."

His mother says, "You could tell he was always trying to be in good spirits for us. Of course, we wanted to be in good spirits, too. I think all of us were trying not to let the others know how much pain we were all in so the others around us wouldn't worry."

In 2000, Plourd and the family hired Phoenix attorney Alan Simpson to help them with what had become a stagnant attempt to get evidence from the case retested.

The Maricopa County Attorney's Office fought hard against them.

On March 23, 2001, deputy county attorney Patricia Nigro argued in court that a judge should not allow DNA testing because "none of the scientific evidence used to obtain the conviction has been impugned or questioned. None of the scientific methods used to analyze the evidence in this case have been found invalid or unreliable."

Amazingly, that 2001 motion to block DNA testing still relied heavily on Rawson's testimony.

But finally, Plourd and Simpson got the items released.

Finally, that blood on Ancona's panties was tested.

Finally, her blouse through which her breast was bitten was tested.

Finally, that 17th hair was tested.

All of it pointed to Kenneth Phillips.

Krone walked from prison in Yuma on the sunny afternoon of April 8, 2002. Krone's release made more news than it might have, because death-penalty foes heralded it as the 100th time that a death row inmate had been exonerated since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.

And unlike many of the dubious 100, Krone had no previous convictions, a sharp mind and a strong speaking voice. Death-penalty foes quickly were asking Krone to speak to audiences around the country about his case.

As he walked from prison, he borrowed a pair of his attorney's sunglasses to cope with the glare of freedom.

Ray Krone received a hero's welcome when he returned to Dover in 2002. The real heroes, he was quick to note, were his mother, his stepfather, his sister, and the thousands around Dover and nearby York, Pennsylvania, who supported the family and donated time and money to help get Ray freed.

The moment Ray Krone was imprisoned, his family began working for his release.

Early on, their friends and neighbors knew little of Ray's troubles.

"How do you explain it to people?" Carolyn Leming says over dinner at her home. "We just did what we could and figured it had to end soon."

They got some unexpected help from a distant cousin, Jim Rix, a small business owner in Lake Tahoe. He was casually told by his mother one day, "Did you realize you have a cousin on death row?" Rix, who didn't know Krone, decided to look into the case.

He wrote Krone a letter. Krone wrote back describing the case. Then Rix began looking into the evidence.

"At first, it was just curiosity," Rix tells New Times. "I figured he was guilty."

But, he says, he quickly saw something was amiss.

He bought transcripts of the trial. He began reviewing evidence firsthand.

"So I just kept looking deeper, and the more I looked, the crazier it got," he says. "Once I realized he was innocent, it became a mission to help him."

It was Rix who first began sending the dental evidence to other forensic dental experts, all of whom agreed Rawson was wrong.

Rix approached Chris Plourd because Plourd specializes in cases involving complex forensic work. Plourd was astounded by the evidence and took the case.

Back in Dover, Jim and Carolyn and Ray's sister began working feverishly. They, too, took the evidence to other dental experts. They wrote letters to other experts, legal and medical, asking for help.

They finally got Ray a new trial. By the summer of 1995, Plourd and the family were feeling that Krone would soon be free.

The newspaper in York began covering the story. The paper detailed the evidence at the time showing that Ray Krone didn't commit the crime. The community began rallying around Krone's family. Raffles and bake sales were held to help the Lemings, who were spending all their earnings and savings on legal and travel expenses.

After a few days of trial in June 1995, the community of Dover was already planning a "Welcome Home" party for Ray. That's how strong the case seemed to be.

But Carolyn Leming never began celebrating.

"Things had been so messed up for so long, I just wasn't going to believe he was going to be free until I saw him free," she says. "I had a sick feeling. And sure enough."

Sure enough, Rawson's testimony apparently drove the jury to the second conviction.

So Krone went back to prison. The story faded from the front pages. People got on with their lives -- except for Plourd and Ray's family.

Carolyn and Jim wrote a newsletter keeping people up to date on the case.

The Lemings were out of money. They were living at the friend's cabin by then.

"It didn't matter," Carolyn says. "We weren't going to give up."

In 2002, when DNA evidence exonerated Krone, the "Welcome Home" banners went up again. This time, there would be someone to greet.

"It was just amazing," Krone says. "I can't describe the feeling. Everybody was just so great. One minute you're in prison, the next you're in the arms of so many people you care about and who care about you and did so much for you. It's just an absolutely amazing feeling."

In the months that followed, Krone tried to relax amid a crunch of media and speaking requests. He spent a lot of time with friends "just talking about old times and joking." He began dating and soon had a steady girlfriend.

He and Jim built a dining room table together. Krone's neighbor helped him renovate a shed between their homes into a party room with hot tub, bar, TV and dartboard.

After a while, though, his mother started feeling like Krone might be spinning his wheels.

"It seemed like he was changing direction all the time," she says.

And every so often, Alan Simpson, Krone's attorney in the ongoing civil suits, would call him with a new piece of evidence.

"You can't help but get angry as you get the full picture of what they did," Carolyn Leming says.

"Do these people simply have no conscience?" Jim Leming asks.

"It really is hard to hear some of this stuff," Krone says. "You can't help but ask, 'Why?' Over and over. Why didn't you check this? Why didn't you check that? Why did you cover that up? How could you do this to another human being? I just don't get it. I don't think I'll ever get it."

Once again, though, Krone stops himself from going down that road.

Look at the present. Look to the future.

The biggest gift from Extreme Makeover came after the show was finished. That's when the show's staff quietly surprised Krone with a contract to work for the American Program Bureau.

Krone's primary job over the past year has been speaking around the country about criminal justice reform. Last year, he was even invited to make several speaking engagements in Europe.

But it was a job that wasn't earning him money. He was usually speaking for next to nothing -- say, the cost of the trip to the engagement.

This is about to change.

The Bureau's catalogue is a who's who of celebrities. And the contract meant that Krone could be making a few thousand dollars a month, instead of a few dollars.

"I think this is it," his mother says. "I think he's finding his calling."

On a recent afternoon, Krone was driving up to a small Pennsylvania college to give a talk on capital punishment.

"This just feels right," he says. "I think this is what I was meant to do. It's like it's all coming together.

"It's rare that people get the chance to turn something so awful into something good. That's ultimately how I have to look at the past. Without it, none of this would be happening. It was an education."

Then he laughs at his own gushy optimism.

"Okay, it was a really shitty education at a really tough school. But it was a unique education. We'll just say it was very unique."

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