Mid 1997 - starting may 1st, 1997
Ramsey friend calls for special prosecutor
Letter refers to 'web of evil surrounding this case'

By Monte Whaley
Camera Staff Writer

Two more key witnesses in the JonBenét Ramsey murder investigation are voicing concerns about how the Boulder County District Attorney is handling the investigation.

Bill and Janet McReynolds say they have been "caught in the web of evil surrounding this case" and support a call for a special prosecutor to take over. The McReynolds' make their claim in a letter sent to the editor of the Daily Camera.

McReynolds, a former University of Colorado journalism professor, portrayed Santa Claus at the Boulder home of John and Patsy Ramsey on Dec. 23, 1996. The Ramseys' 6-year-old daughter JonBenét was found strangled in the basement of the home three days later, a few hours after she was reported kidnapped.

McReynolds, 68, was interviewed by Boulder investigators two months after JonBenét's death, as was his wife, Janet. The couple reportedly was targeted because of parallels to the Ramsey case.

The McReynolds' middle daughter, then 9, was abducted along with a friend in Longmont and witnessed the sexual molestation of her friend. The incident occurred on Dec. 26, 1974. An autopsy on JonBenét showed she also may have been sexually molested.

Another parallel is a play written by Janet McReynolds in 1976. The play, "Hey Rube," is about the sexual assault, torture and murder of a girl whose body was found in a basement.

The couple apparently was on good terms with the Ramseys before the slaying. Janet McReynolds went with her husband when he portrayed Santa at a Ramsey family Christmas party for the third consecutive year. A few months before, while Bill McReynolds was hospitalized for open-heart surgery, Patsy Ramsey called the Daily Camera asking for a story about the man who played Santa, suggesting that Boulder residents send him cards.

The McReynoldses told police that on the night of JonBenét's death they went to bed at 8 p.m. Police say JonBenét died sometime between her bedtime Christmas night and dawn the following day.

Boulder County District Attorney Alex Hunter is presenting the homicide case to a grand jury starting today. But two former friends of John and Patsy Ramsey — Fleet and Priscilla White — have asked a special prosecutor be assigned to pursue the case, saying Hunter was dragging his feet.

In their letter, the McReynoldses say every member of their family has been interrogated and their two sons were required to give fingerprints, handwriting samples and DNA "even though neither of them was aware of the existence of little JonBenét before she was killed."

The McReynoldses say they have the highest respect for Boulder police detectives who investigated the case. But when they were interviewed in July by the Boulder prosecutor's office, "We were not encouraged by the discoveries we made."

"The latest 'scuttlebutt' that we are receiving is that, indeed, there will be a Grand Jury investigation orchestrated by the district attorney and that there will be no indictment," the letter says. "We do not see that prognosis as being beneficial to the hundreds of innocent people who, like ourselves, have been caught in the web of evil surrounding this case."

They commended the Boulder City Council for considering the White's request for a special prosecutor. The council decided not to ask for a special prosecutor, saying it had confidence in the grand jury.

Janet McReynolds said she and her husband have had no personal contact with the Whites. They learned of their request for a special prosecutor on the Internet. She declined to go into specifics about the letter, saying she and her husband may be called as witnesses to the grand jury.

Suzanne Laurion, the district attorney's spokeswoman, said her office had no comment on the latest criticism.

September 15, 1998
amsey rips police, lauds Smit
JonBenét's father asks for help from Romer

By Matt Sebastian
Camera Staff Writer

In a rare public statement Monday, John Ramsey again questioned the competence of the Boulder police investigating his 6-year-old daughter's murder and called on Gov. Roy Romer to provide additional resources to the case.

Likening detectives to "a lynch mob hiding behind the authority of police badges," Ramsey criticized the Boulder Police Department as having "little experience or training in homicide cases."

"The law in the hands of the unskilled and the unknowing is a terrible thing," Ramsey wrote in his two-page statement.

Neither Boulder County District Attorney Alex Hunter nor Police Chief Mark Beckner would answer the latest volley.

"We are not responding to this letter," said city spokeswoman Jennifer Bray. "We haven't even seen it."

Ramsey's comments were made in support of Lou Smit, the investigator who left the Boulder County District Attorney's Office last week, convinced that prosecutors believe John and Patsy Ramsey killed their daughter, found strangled and beaten in the family's home Dec. 26, 1996.

The letter comes a day before the fifth meeting of a grand jury investigating his daughter's slaying and the day after a network news show outlined evidence it claimed might implicate Patsy Ramsey in the crime.

After bemoaning the investigation's loss of its "only experienced homicide detective," John Ramsey went on to address Boulder police, the "fanatic fringe who surround this case" and even the person who killed JonBenét.

"To the killer, I would say that we can and will find you," Ramsey wrote, imploring the murderer to come forward.

"We have been told that the authorities have your DNA," Ramsey continued, adding that his family's $100,000 reward offer still stands. "You know you will kill again, so do this one good thing in your life."

ARamsey also made a request to the Colorado governor, asking Romer "to additionally commit significant, qualified investigative resources on a long-term basis if necessary to solve this case."

Romer last month expressed confidence in Hunter and loaned him two metro-area prosecutors after police Detective Steve Thomas quit the investigation, demanding an independent prosecutor.

Ramsey wrote that he and his wife were "encouraged that you committed additional resources to this case, but were disappointed that you stopped short by only assigning more attorneys and not the needed qualified investigators."

It appears unlikely, though, that Romer will again intervene in the Ramsey case.

"The governor had reviewed this a couple of months ago and at that time had made a decision not to appoint a special prosecutor, but to help make available resources, which has been done," Romer's press secretary Jim Carpenter said. "The governor made that decision, and at this time sees no reason to make a change."

Smit's resignation caused a furor over the weekend as his own letter — a 2.5-page defense of John and Patsy Ramsey — became public.

"The case tells me there is substantial, credible evidence of an intruder and lack of evidence that the parents are involved," Smit wrote.

But the former Colorado Springs homicide detective also raised eyebrows with his assertion that he will "stand with this family and somehow help them through this and find the killer of their daughter."

One former FBI profiler said it would be unconscionable for Smit to help the Ramseys investigate their daughter's death.

"For Smit now to have worked months and months on this case and have access to all of the information and to just pack up shop and walk over and join the other camp is just really unethical," Gregg McCrary said Monday.

Smit is bound by a non-disclosure clause in his former contract that forbids him from divulging any information gleaned during his employment with the district attorney.

Hunter's spokeswoman had no comment on the possibility of Smit going to work for the Ramseys and Beckner simply said, "I think he's got to be very careful.

"To have an investigator leave the investigative team, you kind of wonder what their motives are."

But one source close to the Ramsey family told the Daily Camera on Monday that there are no plans to employ Smit and that doing so would cause more problems than it would solve.

Today, Boulder County's grand jury will convene for the fifth time in its investigation of the 21-month-old homicide.

Beckner pointed to the importance of letting "that process continue with minimal distraction."

"Debating the case in public isn't going to get it solved," the police chief said. "What's going to get it solved is investigation, gathering the facts and evidence and letting the facts and evidence speak for themselves in a court of law."

The grand jury may soon face another distraction, though, as New York attorney Darnay Hoffman Monday revealed his intention to petition Boulder District Court Chief Judge Roxanne Bailin to appear before the panel investigating JonBenét's death.

Bailin in January rejected a suit from Hoffman in which he hoped to force Hunter to file charges against Patsy Ramsey. Hoffman purports to have handwriting analysis proving JonBenét's mother wrote the ransom note found in the Ramsey home that December day.

Having now received a formal denial to appear before the grand jury, Hoffman said he will file his latest complaint on Wednesday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

September 29, 1998
Bungled JonBenet Case Bursts a City's Majesty

A quarter of a century ago, as antiwar protests convulsed this college town, voters first elected an amiable criminal defense lawyer to be prosecutor for what some Coloradans called ''the People's Republic of Boulder.''
Working out plea agreements in drug cases and producing videos on drug addiction treatments, Alexander M. Hunter was re-elected six times as district attorney. Asked recently why his resume of 25 years did not list any prosecutions, Mr. Hunter responded, ''I have never thought that the brand of justice in this office was measured by counting the notches on my conviction gun.''
It was in this mellow bubble of Buddhist studies and herbal tea manufacturing that someone sexually molested and killed JonBenet Ramsey, a 6-year-old beauty princess last Christmas night, setting in motion one of the decade's most celebrated crime mysteries. With the one-year anniversary looming, the police on Friday plan to offer a rare update on an investigation that they admit has been flawed from the start.
And as the case drags on without an indictment in sight, there are increasing concerns that the problems in the investigation -- and the chances that the case will ever be solved -- are impossible to separate from Boulder's chummy legal culture, which is being scrutinized here as never before.
Continue reading the main story

Continue reading the main story
On the police side, the Boulder Police Chief, Tom Koby, announced two weeks ago that he would decide whether to charge someone by next May. Heavily criticized for the stalled case, Mr. Koby and John Eller, the detective who led the investigation until October, recently announced their resignations from the city police force.
On the prosecution side, impatience with Mr. Hunter's perceived indecision has touched off calls for the appointment of a special prosecutor or the impaneling of a grand jury. Public confidence has been clouded by a haze of ties among lawyers on opposing sides of the case.
2 Views of Parents: Victims or Criminals?
''It's apparent that nobody will probably be arrested, and extremely unlikely that somebody will be convicted,'' said Craig Silverman, a former prosecutor in nearby Denver. ''We either have a set of parents who are guilty of one of the most atrocious killings ever -- or we have a set of parents who have been incredibly victimized by their daughter's killers and by the media.''
Although the police have not named any suspects, suspicion has centered on the girl's parents, John and Patsy Ramsey. The police did not find any sign of forced entry at the house.
They discovered that the girl had been garroted with a paintbrush from the house and a nylon cord and that a 370-word ransom note had been written with pen and paper from the house. The note contained personal details known only by an intimate few, including the size of Mr. Ramsey's most recent annual bonus and a reference to the United States Navy base where he served three decades ago.
''Statistically, it is a 12-to-1 probability that it's a family member or a care giver,'' Gregg McCrary, a retired profiler with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, said, referring to Justice Department statistics on murders of children in which there were convictions. ''The younger the child is, the less they run in wide social circles.''
The Ramseys have consistently maintained their innocence. But for four months after the murder, they declined to talk to the police. Instead, they mounted a defense team that sounds like a defense lawyer's Christmas carol: eight lawyers, four publicists, three private investigators, two handwriting analysts and one retired F.B.I. profiler.
Mr. Ramsey, who has matched Boulder's $500,000 in spending on the case, may have to cut his spending next month when he is expected to lose his job because of a corporate buyout.
'Athens of Rockies' Finds Image Deflated
Boulder, with a low crime rate and a high concentration of Ph.D's, likes to fancy itself ''the Athens of the Rockies.'' But, averaging one homicide or less a year, this city of 100,000 people was unprepared for the complexities of the case.
Critics and law-enforcement officials agree that the police bungling began soon after Patsy Ramsey called the police on the morning of Dec. 26 to say that her daughter had been kidnapped.
Seven hours after that first call, Linda Arndt, the police detective at the scene, asked Mr. Ramsey to search his house without a police escort. Within minutes, Mr. Ramsey emerged from the cellar holding his daughter's body. Detective Arndt further contaminated the crime scene by placing a blanket over the body and by allowing 10 people to mill throughout the house, including the Ramseys' pastor and four family friends. Weeks later, detectives frantically tried to overcome this initial damage, searching for clues by dismantling toilets, tearing up carpets and removing doors.
Despite Boulder's inexperience with homicides, Chief Koby turned down offers of technical help from the police in Denver, the Colorado city with the highest homicide rate.
Critics say the police and prosecutors have used kid gloves handling the Ramseys, one of the city's wealthiest and best-connected families until they moved last summer to an Atlanta suburb.
About 10 days after the killing, Detective Arndt gave a photocopy of the handwritten ransom note to a lawyer for Mrs. Ramsey. At the same time, other police officers were asking Mrs. Ramsey to provide handwriting samples. When the Ramseys refused to talk to the Boulder police, prosecutors tried to win the couple's good will by giving them police reports on the case and by arranging a private viewing of the paintbrush and nylon cord used to garrote the girl.
Normally, evidence sharing is reserved for indicted suspects, who can review police files through the discovery process.
Although many of their friends and neighbors have voluntarily submitted to police lie-detector tests, the Ramseys have not. And though the parents finally submitted to formal police interviews in late April, they have never allowed the police to interview their son, Burke, now 11.
Rise in Discontent Sets Off Shake-Ups
''Typically, it is not difficult to get parents to come down to the station for an interview; it is hard to get them out,'' said Mr. McCrary, who has told of declining a job offer from the Ramseys after the murder. ''Typically, they are down there, banging on the desk, saying, 'What are you doing?' ''
Rank-and-file police discontent with the handling of the case contributed to a nonbinding, no confidence vote on Chief Koby. In October, in a rare news conference, the Chief admitted he did not have a case for prosecution and added, ''It is accurate to say that if we had to do it all over again, we would do it differently.''
At the time, Chief Koby announced he was replacing Commander Eller as the head of the Ramsey investigation.
With this switch coming after calls by Mr. Ramsey and his lawyers for a change of leadership, the move only served again to raise questions of special treatment.
''The public feels that the police have coddled the Ramseys because they are rich and influential in Boulder,'' said Lee Hill, a Boulder defense lawyer who ran unsuccessfully for City Council last month.
Mr. Hunter, the district attorney, is the target of similar accusations that Boulder's small-city intimacy has eroded institutional fire walls.
Mike Bynum, a former prosecutor for Mr. Hunter, is a main architect of Mr. Ramsey's legal defense. Last spring, Mr. Bynum won from Mr. Hunter's office a charge reduction, from felony to misdemeanor, for Jay Elowsky, a Ramsey friend who had threatened with a baseball bat two men he mistook for reporters. A felony conviction could have jeopardized a lucrative liquor license held by Mr. Elowsky for a restaurant chain that he owns with Mr. Bynum and Mr. Ramsey.
Leslie L. Durgin, Boulder's Mayor until her term expired two weeks ago, said: ''I'm extremely concerned about the relationship between the district attorney's office and the Ramsey attorneys. The perception is that they are closer than we thought.''
In a recent Vanity Fair article, Ann Louise Bardach wrote that Peter Hofstrom, the prosecutor's liaison to the Ramsey family, regularly had breakfast with one Ramsey defense lawyer and that another Ramsey defense lawyer gave a back rub to a Boulder prosecutor at a meeting about the case.
''Hofstrom having breakfast -- that's how lawyers operate in this country,'' Mr. Hunter responded in an interview. ''As for the back rub, here's a guy who is bent over because he had a lower back problem. The guy comes up and asks, 'Where does it hurt?' ''
'Web of Influence' Is Seen in Case
In the fall, Denver's press started saying that the JonBenet case was trapped in ''a web of influence.'' Much was made of the fact that the district attorney, his chief deputy, Bill Wise, and a Ramsey lawyer, William Gray, were investors for many years in a $5 million office complex here.
''I have not talked to Bill Gray in 15 years,'' Mr. Hunter responded. ''It is a limited partnership. We do not meet. We do not talk. We do not have a vote.''
Further eroding public confidence, other small-town links appeared between Ramsey defense lawyers and three Denver lawyers who volunteered to advise the Boulder police in the murder case.
One of the police lawyers, Robert N. Miller, is to share multimillion-dollar legal fees in a case with Hal Haddon, Mr. Ramsey's lead lawyer. The case was settled only days before Mr. Miller agreed to do pro bono work for the Police Department. In another potential conflict, Mr. Haddon's law firm is defending a legal malpractice case lodged against a second volunteer police lawyer, Daniel S. Hoffman.
''What's being suggested is that we somehow sent these guys in to infiltrate the cops -- and that's totally phony,'' Mr. Haddon told The Denver Post in September. Lampooning these allegations, Mr. Haddon sent out invitations to his firm's annual Halloween Party, inviting: ''Come, get entangled in our web.''
The three lawyers said they had disclosed to the Boulder police ''all relationships with those involved in the matter.'' The three volunteer lawyers said in a recent statement, ''We continue to devote countless hours to this investigation free of charge, and it is offensive to suggest that we would allow ourselves to be influenced by other relationships.''
As the case drags on without an indictment, frustrated police detectives have tried to embarrass Mr. Hunter by reopening three Boulder murder cases that were never prosecuted.
Two weeks ago, Darnay Hoffman, a New York defense lawyer, filed a legal complaint in a state court here, asking a judge to compel Mr. Hunter to prosecute Mrs. Ramsey for writing the ransom note. If Mr. Hunter refuses to prosecute, the lawyer argued in an interview, the judge should appoint a special prosecutor.
Special prosecutors are rare in Colorado, and chances are high that the case will remain in Mr. Hunter's hands. Handwriting experts are divided over the authorship of the note.
''The bottom line is that there is not yet, at this point, a case for presentation,'' Mr. Hunter said in an interview. Although he declined to clear the Ramseys, he said his office is ''open-minded'' about intruder theories. His investigator has started tracking down convicted pedophiles who lived in Boulder a year ago. Last year, there were about 100 convicted sex offenders registered in the Boulder area.
To some critics, this is a road without end.
''By checking out pedophiles in the area, the prosecution is conceding the main point of the Ramseys: that there was an intruder,'' said Mr. Silverman, the former prosecutor. Alluding to the ''reasonable doubt'' defense, he added, ''Once you have conceded the possibility of an intruder, I don't see how any Ramsey could ever be successfully prosecuted.''
JonBenet paper-doll cutout book rejected as 'too painful to family'
By Charlie Brennan
Rocky Mountain News Staff Writer
BOULDER -- A local artist planning a JonBenet Ramsey paper-doll book has been told by a lawyer to cut it out.

Connie Marshall approached the Ramsey family for permission to publish a 16-page cutout book featuring JonBenet modeling 30 paper-doll costumes, said attorney William Gray, who has been retained by the Ramseys.

All the costumes were to be reproductions of outfits the kindergartner wore for the beauty pageants at which she competed so successfully, columnist Cindy Adams reported in Wednesday's New York Post.

The book was to be titled Tribute to JonBonet, with the murdered child's household-famous name misspelled.

"The cover art is a big star plus a head shot of Boulder's murdered child beauty queen plus a full length bathing-suit shot where she's blowing bubbles,'' Adams wrote.

"We received a solicitation for approval from that person (Marshall),'' Gray said.

"We are not in a position to give permission for commercial use of JonBenet's image. It is too painful to the family.''

Marshall, a 1978 graduate of the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design, could not be reached for comment.

Meanwhile, investigators Wednesday completed their third day of work at the Ramseys' vacant home, where JonBenet was found with a fractured skull and strangled the day after Christmas. They are nearing the end of their second extensive search of the property.

July 3, 1997

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