Ed Ates Was Paroled After Serving 20 Years For A Murder He Says He Didn't Commit
None of Ed Ates's hair, blood, fingerprints, or semen were found at the scene. He had no scratches or bruises on his body, and police found no blood on his clothing or shoes.
HUNTSVILLE, TX — In March 2018, after spending 20 years in a Texas prison for a crime he says he did not commit, Ed Ates was paroled.
In 1998, Ates was convicted of the murder of his neighbor Elnora Griffin even though there was no real physical evidence linking him to the crime.
Griffin's naked body was found on July 23, 1993 in a trailer that she rented from her cousin Johnie Pryor. According to Texas Monthly, police believe that she was killed the previous night.
Griffin, who stood just four foot four and a half inches tall and weighed 104 pounds, had been beaten, and there were signs of a struggle in the trailer. Her throat had been viciously slashed all the way to the bone.
A towel was nailed over the window in the mobile home's front door where a curtain had been torn down – and deputies found an imprint of a large hand on the towel.
Investigators found drops of blood at the scene, and what was later identified as the victim's fecal material was in several places in the bedroom and on the kitchen linoleum.
The medical examiner testified that Griffin was “under pressure of the neck” or grabbed by the neck and it is common for someone to defecate as a result of such pressure. In one area on the floor, the fecal material had been smeared as if stepped in.
Ed and his brother Kelvin Ates were outside the trailer when police arrived, and later told detectives that they came over after seeing the lights and commotion.
None of Ates’s hair, blood, fingerprints, or semen were found at the scene. He had no scratches or bruises on his body, and police found no blood on his clothing or shoes.
But police still began to focus on Ates, who stood six foot six and weighed over 200 pounds.
At the time, Ates and his brother Kelvin lived nearby with his grandmother Maggie Dews. A neighbor of Dews’ told investigators that she had called Griffin that night between 9:45 and 10:30, and said Griffin had told her that she was was “talking to Edward Lewis,” whom she identified “Ms. Dew’s grandson.”
Detectives soon discovered that Ates did not go to work that night, according to court documents — and he had lied about his alibi.
Ates told investigators that his girlfriend had picked him up and taken him to her apartment between 9:30 and 10 P.M., and brought him back a little after midnight. But his girlfriend told police that he had shown up at her door.
Monica Bush testified that on July 22, Ates "came to her apartment door around 11:30 or 11:45 P.M. She was not expecting him,” a court document from Ates’ appeal read. “He was sweating and looked unkempt. She and Appellant talked until about midnight. Appellant had told her that he came to the apartment complex with a friend of his named Marcus, who was around the corner visiting his girlfriend who lived in the complex.” However, Ates later told his girlfriend that he made “Marcus” up.
Ates would later claim that he lied because he had borrowed his grandmother's car without permission, and was also afraid of his mother — who had reportedly shot two people after getting into conflicts with them in the past — getting angry.
While interviewing Ates, an investigator checked his shoes and scraped off a little blob of something that he believed smelled like feces. At Ates's first trial, the substance swiped from Ates's shoe would become a contentious issue.
An FBI serologist named Dick Reems testified that the only thing his testing revealed was that the material was “protein of human origin.” The case ended in a mistrial.
In August 1998, Ates went on trial again. At his 1998 trial, one of the prosecutors told the jury that “the expert testimony from Dick Reems” showed that the substance “was human feces.”
At the second trial, prosecutors also relied on the testimony of a former cellmate of Ates’s named Kenny Snow. Snow claimed that Ates had paid him to lie and testify that another inmate had confessed to killing Griffin.
This time, a jury convicted Ates of murder and sentenced him to 99 years in prison. But Ates continued to maintain his innocence, and in 2007, Ates’s grandmother hired two Houston lawyers to take his case. They began to accumulate evidence, including an affidavit from Snow in which he claimed that his testimony had been false.
He stated that when he overheard the conversation between Ates and the other inmate, it was the other man who confessed to Griffin’s murder. Snow alleged that prosecutors told him if he helped convict Ates, he’d get probation. But prosecutors denied any kind of deal.
In 2016, Ates's case was put into the spotlight when Bob Ruff covered it on his podcast Truth & Justice. Ruff spoke to Kenny Snow, who was back in prison following a parole violation, and Snow admitted that – though he could not be sure if Ates was innocent – he had indeed lied in his testimony.
After investigating the case, Ruff stated that “this entire case was botched from the beginning with sloppy, lazy, incompetent police work, followed up with a lead investigator who had blinders on.”
He pointed out that there were two potential suspects, one of whom had been dating Griffin, who he believes were overlooked by police. Ruff began corresponding with Ates, and eventually the Innocence Project of Texas took the case on.
“Since IPTX took on Ed’s case, it has discovered several indicators in the crime scene that it believes are incongruent with the State’s theory of the case. Items have been submitted for DNA testing, and our investigation is ongoing,” a statement on the organization’s website reads. “In the meantime, Ed’s release on parole is a significant life event both for Ed and his family.... IPTX will continue working on Ed’s case and hopes to eventually obtain a complete exoneration.”
When interviewed by Bob Ruff on Truth & Justice, Ates asked him if he “ever wished he had a time machine." He claimed that "he'd told one stupid lie" and "it’s cost him his life.”
Not only was Bob Ruff very instrumental in securing Ates' release, but he also launched a very successful GoFundMe to assist Ates and his wife during his transition home.
Additionally, through the Truth & Justice "army" of listeners, Ates received a donated vehicle when he got out.
For now, Ates plans to live in Dallas with his wife, Kim; daughter Kyra, and son Zach.
“It’s a good feeling, but it’s not all the way there yet,” Ates said recently. “Parole is good, don’t get me wrong … but it’s not the same as being exonerated. I get to go home and be with my family, but that’s not what I want. I want my name back. I want this mark off of me, this stripe off of me.”