Note - handwriting attributed to Patsy
Not forgotten: Controversy still surrounds the murder of JonBenét Ramsey
By JULIE POPPEN, Camera Staff Writer
Friday, December 26, 1997
"Why didn't I hear my baby?"
Those were among the first words uttered by a distraught Patricia Ramsey to Boulder police Detective Linda Arndt who showed up at the Ramseys' sprawling University Hill home to investigate an alleged kidnapping.
Ramsey's darling, 6-year-old daughter JonBenét, was not in her bed. At 5:52 a.m. the day after Christmas - one year ago today - "Patsy," a former Miss West Virginia, and her husband John, then head of Boulder-based Access Graphics, had already pointed police to a bizarre, nearly three-page ransom note.
Neatly coifed and dressed for the day, Patsy found the alarming letter on a spiral staircase as she made her way downstairs to make coffee. In one interview, she said she was preparing to go "visiting" that morning. The Ramseys also were scheduled to meet John Ramsey's adult children from a previous marriage in Minneapolis, where they would take a private plane with the Boulder Ramsey clan to the family's second home in Charlevoix, Mich. His two older children had left Atlanta early that morning.
"It said 'Mr. Ramsey ... we have your daughter,'" Patsy said, describing the ransom note during a Jan. 1 CNN interview. "And I - you know, it just wasn't registering, and I may have gotten through another sentence ... And I immediately ran back upstairs and pushed open her door, and she was not in her bed, and I screamed for John."
Although it's one of the most highly publicized cases in criminal history, the heinous murder and apparent sexual assault of JonBenét Ramsey has yet to be solved. Speculation on her murder - she was found strangled with a fractured skull in the basement of the family's home in the early afternoon - has run rampant.
Boulder police and investigators with the Boulder County District Attorney's office remain tight-lipped. The Ramseys, with a team of attorneys and private investigators, will not talk openly about the untimely death of their daughter, described as an outgoing child who showed a remarkable concern for others. Despite being described as a "focus" of the investigation, the Ramseys have adamantly denied any knowledge of their daughter's brutal end.
The police and family friends - especially those who were at the Ramsey home when JonBenét's body was found - now have unlisted phone numbers and no desire to express their grief, pain or anger publicly.
But the release of documents - such as search warrants for the Ramseys' Boulder home and their summer home, the autopsy report and transcripts of interviews with the Ramseys and their hired experts - provide a snapshot of events that transpired on that infamous winter day.
The Ramseys
The Ramseys moved to Boulder in 1991. John Ramsey, then president and chief executive officer of Access Graphics, outlined lofty goals for the company he relocated from Atlanta.
Once here, the family moved into a 15-room, Tudor-style home worth $760,000 near Chautauqua Park. Access Graphics outperformed expectations in 1996, raking in $1 billion in revenues. The success was noted in the Ramsey family Christmas card.
For John, it was like a second life. He had three children with his former wife, including a daughter, Elizabeth, who died in a car wreck in the Chicago area in 1992. One of his adult children, John Andrew Ramsey, was enrolled at University of Colorado at the time of the murder.
Often away on business, John Ramsey returned weekends and spent time eating dinner with his family, reading to his children and helping with homework, friends said not long after the slaying. "He disciplined with love," Patsy's mother, Nedra Paugh, said at the time. Friends said John never raised his voice or spanked his kids.
Others, though, describe him as an "enigma" and "hard to get to know."
Patsy, who will turn 41 on Dec. 29, is a former Miss West Virginia and, with her two sisters, beauty queen aficionados. She was known as a community do-gooder, volunteering at her son Burke's school even as she recovered from a bout of ovarian cancer in 1994. In fact, Judith Phillips, a 46-year-old professional photographer who has known the Ramseys for 14 years, noted that Patsy spent even more time with her kids after her battle with the deadly disease.
Family friends have said Patsy doted on her children, introducing her youngest, JonBenét, to the intriguing world of child beauty pageants. One autumn, Patsy denied to friends that she dyed little JonBenét's dishwater blond hair a bright gold and said it had been bleached in the summer sun in Michigan. But those who knew JonBenét said it was obvious.
"I knew it was dyed," Phillips said. "That was a ridiculous lie - what does she think I am, stupid?"
Named JonBenét after her father, John Bennett, the little girl loved to sing, dance and perform, observers said. She appeared well-versed in social graces, but had a mischievous side.
The Ramseys were active churchgoers, holding social functions at their home for parishioners at St. John's Episcopalian Church. The Ramseys were known for their lavish parties. One Christmas, Patsy had as many as eight Christmas trees in different rooms of the house.
A year ago, the home's walkway was decorated with singing candy canes, one report said. Despite the intensity of their entertaining, people have described the Ramseys as "down to earth" and "easygoing."
Christmas Day
The Ramseys spent part of Christmas night delivering presents and attending a Christmas party in the evening at the home of oil magnate Fleet White Jr. and his wife Priscilla. Nobody noticed anything peculiar. In fact, Patsy was described as being excited about the planned trip to Michigan.
"Patsy was just bubbly, full of life," a family friend had said. "And she was excited about going to Michigan the next day."
Earlier in the week, they threw a major holiday fete attended by about 50 people - including Santa Claus. Bill McReynolds, a former University of Colorado journalism professor who worked as Santa in Boulder for years, said little JonBenét gave him a vial of star dust (glitter) for him to sprinkle in his beard.
As usual, JonBenét was trying to make sure everybody was having fun. She stayed close to her brother, Burke, who was 9-years-old at the time.
Christmas day was warm and sunny for the most part, and JonBenét and her brother each received new bicycles that their mother picked out from University Bicycles downtown.
One police report indicated Patsy was the last person to see JonBenét alive - safely tucked in her bed at 10 p.m. at 755 15th St. Another report said John Ramsey told a detective he was the last person to see his daughter in her second floor bedroom at 10 p.m.
Nobody - except the killer or killers - knows what happened in the home for the next eight hours. The only people in the home, according to the Ramseys, were Patsy, John, JonBenét and Burke, now 10.
There were no new footprints in the fresh dusting of snow and frost on the family's lawn or in a crusty accumulation of old snow, according to police who first arrived on the scene. But some walkways might have been free of snow - making such preliminary evidence non-conclusive.
And recent news reports indicate police might have footprint evidence from inside the home. Investigators recently have asked family friends whether they own SAS or Hi-Tech shoes or boots. Hi-Tech boots are commonly worn by law enforcement officers, one store owner said.
Initial reports also note there were no signs of forced entry, yet one Boulder police sergeant later noticed a pry mark in the door jam of a rear kitchen door.
John Ramsey told police the home was locked when he went to bed and when he awoke. But the alarm system was off. The Ramseys, who declined comment for this story, also indicated they heard no strange noises overnight.
The first two Boulder police officers arrived on the scene at 5:52 a.m. Dec. 26. Several family friends were already inside - including White, his wife, friends Barbara and John Fernie and the pastor from St. John's Episcopalian Church, Rol Hoverstock. Throughout the day, more friends came and went.
The ransom note, printed with a felt-tip pen on a note pad later recovered from the home, demanded that John Ramsey turn over $118,000 to a "foreign faction" for the safe return of his daughter. If he failed to comply with the demands, which included a warning not to contact police or the FBI, JonBenét would be "decapitated." The monetary amount matched an annual bonus Ramsey had received at Access.
JonBenét's bedroom was sealed about 10:30 a.m.
Body discovered
At 1:05 p.m., after attempts to monitor phone calls failed to turn up the kidnappers, Detective Arndt asked John Ramsey, White and Fernie to search the house for "any sign of JonBenét or anything that may have been left or taken that belonged to her."
JonBenét's lifeless 45-pound frame was discovered almost immediately in a windowless basement room by her father and White. Police said she had been dead for "quite some time," but no time of death has ever been officially established, according to the Boulder County Coroner's Office.
"John Ramsey immediately went to the basement of the house, followed by Fleet White and John Fernie," Arndt reported. "Within a few minutes, Fleet came running upstairs, grabbed the telephone in the back office located on the first floor, and yelled for someone to call for an ambulance."
An FBI profiler hired by the Ramseys said in one interview that John Ramsey ran upstairs screaming, "Oh my God, my baby."
Arndt ran to the front of the house, near the door leading to the dark basement. She saw Ramsey run up the stairs carrying his youngest child with her tiny arms stiffly positioned above her head, a thin rope dangling from her right wrist. He deposited her small frame near the front door where resuscitation was attempted.
Ramsey already had removed a blanket that had covered her and ripped duct tape from her mouth. JonBenét, a former Little Miss Colorado, was neatly dressed in a white knit shirt decorated with a sequined silver star and white long underwear. An autopsy later revealed that her long johns were stained with urine.
Beneath her long underwear, she wore panties with the word "Wednesday" on the waist band. Those, too, were soaked with urine and investigators spotted evidence of blood. The Ramseys had stated they last saw JonBenét wearing a red turtleneck, prompting some speculation that the girl's clothes were changed after death. A red turtleneck was found in her bathroom sink, according to previously published reports.
Her striking long blond hair was secured with blue hair ties in two ponytails - one in the back of her head and one on top. She had a red ink heart drawn on the palm of her left hand. On her neck hung a gold necklace with a cross pendant. She wore a gold ring on the middle finger of her right hand and a gold bracelet on her right wrist that had "JonBenét" on one side and "12-25-96" on the other.
She had a rope around her neck that had been tightened with a crude garrote fashioned from a broken paint brush found in the Ramsey home. There was a red circular mark in the front of her neck at the base of her throat.
A detective searched the basement to look for the perpetrator. Nobody was found.
The Ramseys used the room where JonBenét's body was found to store Christmas decorations. There, police recovered two blankets, a piece of wire, a pink Barbie nightgown and some broken glass - all of which police later collected as evidence.
The cute, green-eyed girl had pieces of a Christmas garland - similar to the greenery that decorated the spiral staircase - tangled in her hair. There were dark fibers and dark hair on the outside of her shirt. The autopsy revealed numerous traces of a dark fiber in the 6-year-old's vaginal and pubic areas.
There was evidence of sexual abuse, such as blood in her panties. However, the stains didn't match blood on her skin - prompting Boulder County Coroner John Meyer, who arrived at the scene at 8 p.m., to note the evidence was "consistent with the child's pubic area having been wiped by a cloth." The doctor also noted that JonBenét's injury was consistent with "digital penetration of her vagina."
Boulder pediatrician Francesco Beuf, who also showed up at the Ramsey home Dec. 26, has gone public denying evidence of abuse in JonBenét's past. But, like many, he has since become quiet. "I think until this case goes to trial, the less I make public statements about it, the better it's going to be," Beuf said.
The girl had an 8.5-inch fracture in her skull, "consistent with a blow to the head," the coroner reported. By the time Meyer arrived, the girl's body had been moved again to the living room and was covered by a Colorado Avalanche sweatshirt and blanket.
"It was a real emotional scene as for the family putting a child down in front of the Christmas tree as they're trying to ... rub the ... skin, the body is ... cold," said John Douglas, a former FBI profiler hired by the Ramseys to help solve the crime, in a January interview with Dateline NBC. "And ... the mother is hysterical, the father's hysterical, the minister's there, and the neighbors are running in and out. And so there really isn't a crime scene."
Key evidence
During a search of the home that same day, police recovered a note pad with three pages ripped from its center. An analysis by Colorado Bureau of Investigation lab agent Chet Ubowski revealed tear marks that matched those at the top of the ransom note. The beginning of a "practice" ransom note also was recovered. The note pad in question was turned over to police by John Ramsey.
"On the page immediately preceding the missing three pages, the words 'Mr. and Mrs. Ramsey' had been written with what appeared to be the same felt tip pen as the three-page ransom note," according to one search warrant affidavit. The note pad also contained other handwriting later analyzed by Ubowski. The real ransom note began "Mr. Ramsey."
"This handwriting showed indications that the writer was Patsy Ramsey," according to a search warrant affidavit.
Ubowski would not comment on the ransom note, saying all information compiled by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation is the domain of Boulder authorities. But according to Boulder police, Ubowski reported that handwriting samples from John Ramsey showed "indications" he did not pen the bizarre, rambling three-page note that seemed to rip quotes from books and films, and that it was "probable" Burke did not write it.
"The evidence falls short of that necessary to support a definite conclusion," the Colorado Bureau of Investigation reported.
Ramseys disappear
After the murder, the Ramseys effectively dropped out of sight, by staying with friends and restaurateur Jay Elowski and others. They selectively appeared at a church service two Sundays after their daughter's death. While many parishioners attempted to shield the grieving family from the onslaught of news cameras, it was later revealed their spokesman, Pat Korten, had alerted the media about the photo opportunity.
The Ramseys never returned to the tony Boulder home they spent several years and thousands of dollars renovating.
On Dec. 31, they attended a hastily organized funeral service in Atlanta. JonBenét was laid to rest alongside Elizabeth Ramsey in the city where she was born only six years earlier.
With the closing of JonBenét's coffin came the opening of one of the most widely publicized murder mysteries in American history.
"SINGING candy canes"?

This is a great example of early news stories not being well researched and (IMO) how the media was used to make the case against the parents.
One year later
Camera Editorial

Sunday, December 28, 1997

Earlier this month, the media coordinator for the Oklahoma City bombing trial surveyed news organizations about their interest in attending the trial of the person accused of killing JonBenet Ramsey, if the trial ever takes place. According to Time magazine, 162 said they would attend - compared with the 74 on hand for the trial of Timothy McVeigh, the man convicted of the deadliest act of terrorism in American history.

Whatever else may be said about those numbers - and about the priorities they reveal - they underscore a hard fact. As the first anniversary of JonBenet Ramsey's death passed on Friday, the worldwide interest in the case remained undiminished. JonBenet and her family are still front-page news in the tabloids. National print and broadcast news organizations scrape for new angles, and talk shows recycle familiar themes. Behind it all is a question: Will the case ever be solved?

As always, the answer depends in part on whether investigators can overcome crucial mistakes made in the first hours and days after 6-year-old JonBenet was found murdered in her parents' Boulder home. The failure of police to secure the crime scene on Dec. 26 apparently was responsible for the loss of crucial evidence. Police neglected to pursue what now seem to be obvious lines of inquiry, even in the neighborhood surrounding the Ramsey home.

The investigation now seems to be in good hands. Boulder Police Cmdr. Mark Beckner, who took over the case late this year, is straightforward in his approach to police work and in dealing with questions about the case.

As police attempt to negotiate a further interview with John and Patsy Ramsey, District Attorney Alex Hunter is weighing whether to take the case before a grand jury. We trust that Hunter, a seasoned prosecutor who isn't seeking re-election or running for higher office, won't be pushed in that direction for political reasons. A jury must find the accused murderer guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Hunter should not present a case that in his view falls far short of that standard.

Elsewhere in the nation, the Ramsey case is a murder mystery with high emotional power and endlessly bizarre twists of plot. For residents of Boulder, it is that and more. It is, and always has been, a public safety issue. The handling of this murder, and indeed of any violent crime, tests the caliber of local police work and the candor of law-enforcement officials who are accountable to the public for their actions. Those are issues with daily relevance to the lives of Boulder citizens, as a brutal murder in the past week made all too clear.

Susannah Chase, a University of Colorado student from Stamford, Conn., died on Monday night after a severe beating near her Spruce Street residence. There was no sign of robbery or sexual assault, and no initial sign of witnesses to the crime.

Will the national media descend on Boulder to demand answers in the murder of Susannah Chase? Probably not. But her life was as precious as that of JonBenet Ramsey, and her death under different circumstances on the streets of Boulder raises public-safety questions no less pertinent to every citizen's life. Among those questions: Were the mistakes that surrounded the investigation of JonBenet's death an aberration, or were they indicative of deeper problems? And what have local law-enforcement officials learned from those mistakes?

If law-enforcement officials have the right answers now, the people of Boulder won't have to ask a more painful question next December: Will this case ever be solved?

Forum Jump:

Users browsing this thread: 1 Guest(s)