A Missouri man who identified himself as the leader of a Ku Klux Klan chapter has been found dead several days after he was reported missing, officials said.
The body of Frank Ancona, of Leadwood, Missouri, was discovered late Saturday on a river bank in a rural part of the state, Washington County Sheriff Zach Jacobsen said in a statement posted to Facebook.
A family headed to fish in the Big River came across the body, KMOV News reported.
After Ancona’s disappearance, a Forest Service employee located his car on national forest land, Jacobsen said. The sheriff said the department requested help from other agencies on the case “due to the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of Mr. Ancona.”
Ancona, 51, was last seen by his wife before he left for work around 8:30 or 9 a.m. Wednesday, Leadwood Police Chief William Dickey told the Daily Journal.
Malissa Ancona told police that her husband had gotten a call from work saying he needed to deliver vehicle parts across the state, the newspaper reported. Leadwood police confirmed that Frank Ancona’s employer had reported him missing but had denied asking Ancona to make a delivery across the state, according to the newspaper.
Malissa Ancona also told police that Frank Ancona had packed a bag of clothes, taken all of the couple’s guns from their home and indicated that he was filing for divorce when he returned, the Daily Journal reported. Inside the home, police found a safe with all of its contents missing, according to the newspaper.
The Washington County Coroner’s Office is conducting an autopsy on Frank Ancona’s body and a cause of death has not been released, Jacobsen said. During the investigation, authorities arrested one person on an unrelated warrant, he said.
In his statement, Jacobsen referred all questions to the St. Francois County Sheriff’s Department. A call to that sheriff’s office was not returned Sunday.
A person who answered the phone Sunday at the Leadwood Police Department said he was not allowed to speak about the case.
Local authorities did not mention Ancona’s affiliation with the Ku Klux Klan. According to its website, Ancona was the “Imperial Wizard” for a group called the “Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan,” listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group.
“The media will tell you The KKK is dead, gone, irrelevant. They have tried since the birth of the Klan to downplay the influence and power of the KKK,” Ancona wrote on the web page for Traditionalist American Knights. “They also will try to portray us as haters, ignorant. They will ignore the facts. Let me tell you they are the haters. They have engaged in a campaign to destroy our Race, culture, and heritage.”
Ancona also maintained a YouTube channel, where he posted videos encouraging people to join the KKK. In one 2015 video, Ancona filmed himself in a room addressing “the invisible empire” as well as those who were “on the fence” about joining the Klan. Another video alternates between images of Ancona and others in white robes burning crosses and statements about the Klan as a Christian organization; the entire thing is set to the ethereal vocals of bluegrass-country singer Alison Krauss on “I’ll Fly Away.”
The Washington Post’s Abby Ohlheiser spoke to Ancona in 2015, after the online hacker group Anonymous leaked hundreds of names and social media accounts of people with ties to white supremacist groups. Ancona, who was among those listed, told The Post then that he was “one of the rare people” in the Klan to use his real name.
Ancona said that he thought many members who held sensitive jobs – he gave the example of police officers – would “make a fake account” to interact with other Klan members online.
The Kansas City Star also profiled Ancona in a 2015 series about the evolution of white nationalist groups. Ancona told the newspaper then that the Traditionalist American Knights was a Christian organization, not a hate group, and described a recent cross-burning ceremony in his back yard.
“The police kept their eye on us, and people were driving by and taking pictures, but we didn’t have a single incident,” Ancona told the newspaper. “It’s very touching. … It’s almost like a revival at a church. You kind of come away feeling on fire for Christ, and you want to go out and spread the word.”
The group in 2014 distributed fliers across St. Louis County targeting those who protested the shooting death of Michael Brown, a black teenager, by white Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.
“Attention: To the terrorists masquerading as ‘peaceful protesters!’” the fliers read. “You have awakened a sleeping giant. … We will use lethal force as provided under Missouri Law to defend ourselves. … You have been warned by the Ku Klux Klan!”
Shortly afterward, Ancona appeared on MSNBC to spar with “All In” host Chris Hayes, who asked whether the fliers were inciting violence. Ancona told Hayes that the leaflets were meant to educate people about their rights in the face of “terroristic threats” by protesters.
Among the many membership requirements listed on the Traditionalist American Knights website are specific guidelines about race:
“You must … believe that the White Race is the true chosen people of our Lord God and have dominion over all creatures of the earth as God deemed that it (the White Race) should,” the group stated. “(Members) must not date or be married to anyone outside the White Race. The applicant must not believe in the mixing of the races and must not have mixed-race children. This includes adopted or step-children.”
The group also required that prospective members submit a photo and $50 annual dues with their application.
“We will never, under no circumstances whatsoever, accept anyone that is homosexual, bisexual, atheist, or is not of a sane mind and soul,” the group stated.