It's a horror no one should ever feel: Sitting in prison for the rest of your life for a crime you know you didn't commit. Convicted killer Jamie Snow says he's living that nightmare right now. Andrea Isom is in Illinois with his story. Andrea.
"One thing that's been hard for me to figure out is how can I be sitting in this prison when I know that when someone walked into that gas station and murdered Billy Little I was sitting in my living room clear across town," said Jamie Snow.
Is Jamie Snow just another guy sitting in prison who claims he didn't do it, or was he railroaded?
Andrea Isom traveled to the Stateville Correctional Center in Joliet, Illinois to talk to the man many now think was used by police as a patsy.
It was Easter Sunday 1991. Jamie Snow, his wife Tammy and their five kids went on an Easter egg hunt and then enjoyed a big family dinner.
Police claim Jamie snuck out of the house around 8 p.m. and ended up on the other side of town at Clark gas station with his wife's sister-in-law, Susan Claycomb. Cops say around 8:15 p.m. Jamie, packing a .38 Special, walked into the store demanding money. And when Billy Little, the 18-year-old kid behind the counter, fought back, cops say Jamie pulled out his gun and shot to kill.
Jamie Snow denies he was at the gas station that day.
But it's what Billy Little did in those last desperate moments of his young life that cops say points them right to Jamie Snow. Ironically, it's also what Jamie claims should absolutely clear him.
When the robbery started going down, Billy Little tripped the store's silent alarm.
Patrol officer Jeff Pelo arrives first with his siren silenced. He radios in, saying he doesn't see anyone inside the store or in the parking lot. He does spot a man at the air-pump filling up his tires.
Once inside the store, police find a grisly crime scene, Billy Little's lifeless body behind the register. They also find fingerprints, bullet casings and bloody footprints. The man at the air-pump, Danny Martinez, turns out to be a star witness. He told officers he heard two bangs and then saw Billy's killer leaving the store. Jamie Snow says that wasn't him.
Martinez helps a forensic artist come up with a composite sketch describing the suspect as 5 feet 8 inches tall, with long brownish hair and stubble.
Another witness, Gerardo Gutierrez, tells police he was pumping gas before 8 p.m. and saw a man arguing with Billy inside the store. He described the man as about 6 feet tall, with a mustache, a gold earring and a bloody cut across his chin.
After three months the case goes nowhere. Then, as fate would have it, Jamie, who had a history of run-ins with the law, gets in trouble again. He's locked up briefly for an unrelated crime: obstructing a peace officer.
Even though Jamie's fingerprints and shoeprints didn't match any found at Billy Little's murder scene, investigators decide to put Jamie in a police line-up and ask their key witnesses, Danny Martinez And Gerardo Gutierrez, to take a look.
Gutierrez doesn't recognize anyone, and Martinez, who claimed to see the killer up close, tells cops it's either suspect number 3 or number 4. Jamie Snow was number 6 in the line-up.
Instead of clearing Jamie, he says he became Bloomington Police's prime suspect. Jamie offers to take a polygraph test to clear his name once and for all. Court records show he passed.
Still, police bring in their star witness Martinez three more times to try to identify Jamie out of photo line-ups. Martinez fails to I.D. Jamie every time.
Years pass and then a possible break in the case: Investigators say they receive a letter from a jailhouse informant saying he knows who killed Billy Little, and he'll snitch if he gets a deal.
With the informant's testimony in hand, cops bring out their star witness, Danny Martinez, for a fifth time, nearly nine years after the murder of Billy Little. Martinez finally picks Jamie Snow out of that original line-up.
Jamie Snow is now sitting behind bars at the Stateville Correctional Facility in Joliet, Illinois, a maximum security prison.
Now, 17 years later, he says he's got proof of his innocence, and the University of Chicago's Exoneration Project believes him.