On July 23, 1993 in New Chapel Hill, a small town east of Tyler, Elnora Griffin, 47, was found stabbed to death in her home. Ed Ates lived next door to Ms. Griffin with his grandmother. Ates earned a living as a handyman and had done work for Ms. Griffin.
Investigators from the Smith County Sherriff’s office took statements from Ates, his grandmother and brother as well as other neighbors. Deputies interviewed a neighbor who said that she had called Ms. Griffin between 9:30pm and 10:30pm the night of the murder. According to the neighbor, Ms. Griffin stated that Ed Ates was present in her home at that time.
Ed, who was 25 at the time, was brought in for questioning and was accompanied by his mother. Ed denied having been in Griffin’s home the night of the murder but indicated that he had been there on previous evenings. He stated that he had been with his girlfriend who had come by to pick him up between 9:30 and 10 pm on the night of the murder. When investigators contacted Ed’s girlfriend to verify the information, she stated that she and Ed had been together that night but that he had shown up on his own. Ed stated later that he lied because he had borrowed his mother’s car without permission and did not want to get in trouble.
At that time, a scraping from one of Ed’s shoes was taken as evidence. Due to the violent nature of Ms. Griffin’s death, fecal matter was found at the crime scene and, according to investigators, it appeared to have been stepped in.
Arrest & Trial
Despite no physical evidence or motive, Ed was arrested on August 26, 1993 and charged with murder. Ed was released on bond after several months. During the trial in 1996, the prosecution offered no proof that the debris on the bottom of Ed’s shoe was human feces. An FBI expert could determine only that the smudge on Ed’s shoe was “protein of human origin.” Ed’s prior criminal record of misdemeanor theft as a teenager was presented as evidence of his criminal history during trial. The jury could not reach a unanimous decision and the declared a mistrial. Ed was released and a date for a second trial was set.
While in Dallas in 1998, Ed was mistakenly arrested on a warrant for a misdemeanor theft case from Smith County that had already been disposed of. While in jail, he met a convicted felon, Kenneth Snow, who was awaiting trial for two armed robberies and the two men became friends.
At Ed’s second trial in 1998, the prosecution presented the same evidence with the addition of testimony from Kenneth Snow, who was still awaiting his own trial, stating that Ed had confessed to the crime while the two were in jail together. Despite none of the hundreds of pieces of physical evidence (hairs, blood, semen, fingerprints and cigarette butts) tying Ed to the crime scene and no motive, he was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
After Ed was convicted, Kenneth Snow pleaded guilty and was given ten years’ probation despite his extensive criminal record.
In January of 2016, Ed’s case came to the attention Bob Ruff of the podcast “Truth and Justice.” After investigating Ed’s case, Ruff contacted IPTX who agreed to take Ed’s case. In 2018, Ed had his third parole hearing. IPTX secured assistance from a parole attorney and, with support from Ed’s family and Bob Ruff, Ed was released in September of 2018 after having served 20 years in prison. IPTX continues to work diligently to exonerate Ed.
Systemic Failures Have Wrongly
Imprisoned Thousands of
The Generosity of Their Fellow Citizens Can Provide Them
The Freedom They Deserve.