some early news stories
Ramseys hire lawyer for son; won't submit to police questioning
By KEVIN McCULLEN, Scripps Howard News Service
Wednesday, February 4, 1998
BOULDER -- John and Patsy Ramsey have hired a lawyer to represent their young son, whom police want to question as part of the probe into the 1996 murder of their daughter, JonBenet Ramsey.
The Ramseys recently retained an Atlanta-based lawyer for their son, Burke. The lawyer will represent the 11-year-old in discussions about whether police can question him about what he saw or heard the morning his 6-year-old sister was killed, authorities said.
The lawyer also represented John Andrew and Melinda Ramsey, John Ramseys older children, when police questioned and then cleared them in March. Police say they are unsure whether they will get permission to speak to Burke.
John and Patsy Ramsey have declined a request to be interviewed again, unless they can review evidence in the case and have police questions in writing.
Boulder Police Chief Tom Koby said Tuesday that attorneys for John and Patsy Ramsey sent a letter to police several weeks ago saying they would have no further contact with detectives.
"The letter essentially said, 'We're not talking to you. Don't bother communicating with us,'" Koby said.
There was no comment Tuesday from attorneys for the Ramseys.
Detectives continue to plow through a task list outlined by Cmdr. Mark Beckner when he assumed overall command of the case in October, and Koby has said he believes detectives could complete their work and present a case to him by mid-spring.
Police question JonBenét's brother
Detective spoke with 11-year-old two weeks ago in Atlanta

By Matt Sebastian
Camera Staff Writer

JonBenét Ramsey's 11-year-old brother was interviewed by a Broomfield police detective two weeks ago in Atlanta, marking the child's first meeting with investigators in a year and a half.

Representing the Boulder County District Attorney's Office, Detective Dan Schuler questioned Burke Ramsey for about six hours over June 10-12.

"There weren't any conditions on those interviews, and Burke answered each and every question to best of his ability," said Jim Jenkins, the child's Atlanta-based attorney.

"I'm happy with the way Burke was treated and the manner in which the entire process was carried out."

A source close to the investigation told the Daily Camera that Burke Ramsey was not treated as a suspect, but rather as a potential witness.

Although no guarantees were made by the district attorney's office, the source said, the child's parents said they hope the questioning will forestall a grand jury subpoena for the 11-year-old.

Six-year-old JonBenét Ramsey was found beaten and strangled to death in her parents' Boulder home Dec. 26, 1996. Although they have named no suspects in the 18-month-old killing, police have said John and Patsy Ramsey remain under suspicion.

The Ramseys have maintained their innocence.

Police interviewed Burke Ramsey briefly the day his sister's body was found and — on Jan. 8, 1997, — watched from behind a one-way mirror as a child psychologist talked to the boy.

In February, after several weeks of negotiating another interview with his client, Jenkins broke off talks with police and accused detectives of leaking the substance of negotiations to a Denver newspaper.

Jenkins on Thursday said he received a phone call from Peter Hofstrom, the district attorney's chief trial deputy, shortly after police handed over the Ramsey case to prosecutors June 2.

"Burke's parents were anxious for him to cooperate and participate in the investigation," Jenkins said.

The attorney called Schuler's questions "complete and very thoughtful" and said he and Hofstrom observed the interview from another room.

Neither Schuler, Broomfield's interview specialist, nor Hofstrom could be reached for comment Thursday.

According to a prepared statement from the district attorney's office, the meetings between Schuler and Burke Ramsey were videotaped.

At the conclusion of the first day, the tapes were sent overnight to Boulder where they were viewed by Boulder police detectives, members of the district attorney's staff and consultants to the district attorney, who gave feedback to Schuler and Hofstrom.

Boulder police Detective Jane Harmer was in Atlanta to view the tapes, but didn't participate in the interviews.

Boulder County District Attorney Alex Hunter still is mulling the use of a grand jury to investigate the 18-month-old crime.

The investigative body could subpoena Burke Ramsey to testify, although Jenkins wouldn't comment on that possibility.

He stressed, though, that his client is eager to help investigators.

"Burke's position, with the encouragement of his parents, is that if they need any further assistance from Burke Ramsey in solving the murder of his sister, he'll try and help out," Jenkins said.

September 25, 1998
Child interviews can be tricky
Ramsey probe includes 11-year-old's questioning

By Matt Sebastian
Camera Staff Writer

Investigators probing the 1996 murder of JonBenét Ramsey had long sought to re-interview the slain 6-year-old's older brother, a request that was finally granted earlier this month.

But experts say questioning a child of Burke Ramsey's age — 11 years old — is a risky proposition.

"I don't like interviewing kids when I don't have to," said Brent Turvey, a California-based criminal profiler and forensic scientist. "It's a very tricky proposal and one I'm not comfortable with."

The susceptibility of children to suggestion while being questioned, in addition to difficulty in reconstructing long-term memories, can be dangerous, Turvey said.

And the idea of subpoenaing a child to testify before a grand jury is even more troublesome.

"If you're hanging your entire case on a kid's testimony, that's a real cause for concern," Turvey said.

Burke Ramsey was questioned for about six hours June 10, 11 and 12 in Atlanta. A child-interviewing expert with the Broomfield Police Department questioned Burke, while the boy's attorney and a member of the Boulder County District Attorney's Office watched from another room.

Burke's sister was found slain in the basement of their parents' Boulder home Dec. 26, 1996. The children's parents, John and Patsy Ramsey, have denied involvement, although police say they are under suspicion.

The couple this week sat down for interviews with prosecutors for the first time in almost a year.

Burke had last been interviewed Jan. 8, 1997, by a child psychologist. He also was questioned by police the day his sister's body was found.

The problem with interviewing children, according to Turvey and University of Washington psychology and law professor Elizabeth Loftus, stems from outside influences that can shape recollections.

"They are vulnerable to suggestions from the interrogation and from external sources, such as other people, the media, etc.," Loftus said.

Turvey said children also are very eager to please and could pick up on the types of answers an interviewer is seeking — and then shape responses to the examiner's liking.

"Even regular people going into a lineup are susceptible to the subtle approval given by law enforcement when you pick the right person," Turvey said.

"My view is you should treat them like you're a psychic; the person who interviews them should know nothing about the case. They shouldn't be someone who can accidentally slip something in and inadvertently reward them for going down a certain path."

Perhaps that's why Broomfield police Detective Dan Schuler questioned Burke. While Schuler is — according to his police chief — recognized as Colorado's expert interviewer of children, he didn't investigate the killing.

However, the Boulder police detectives that are working the case did help prepare Schuler's questions.

Another problem with child interviews is the reliability of memory.

"Memories become especially vulnerable to influences after a considerable passage of time, as 1½ years would be," Loftus said, referring to the 18 months that have elapsed since JonBenét's death.

"The real problem here is to separate out what the child knows on his own and what he has learned from other sources," she said.

"And without independent corroboration, it is virtually impossible to distinguish a memory that is a result of true experience from one that is a result of suggestion, confabulation, imagination or some other process."

Turvey said that instead of relying on testimony that a child has "had a year and a half to think about," he prefers "the very first or second statements given to police, because those tend to be the most reliable. As time goes on, things get blurred, things get forgotten and new memories rise up to take their places."

But Phil Miller, a Boulder County assistant district attorney who handles the office's juvenile cases, said that while children — and even some adults — have trouble reconstructing past events, "the notable exception for children is recalling traumatic events," which, he said, are strongly etched in a child's memory.

While it's not known whether investigators got what they wanted from their interview with Burke, sources have told the Daily Camera the child's parents allowed the questioning in hopes of avoiding a grand jury appearance by the 11-year-old.

Jim Jenkins, Burke's Atlanta-based attorney, has said he was pleased with the interviews but wouldn't comment on the possibility of a grand jury subpoena for his client.

Boulder County District Attorney Alex Hunter is still mulling the use of a grand jury, although that decision will likely by delayed by the interviews of John, Patsy and Burke Ramsey in the weeks since police handed over their case to the prosecution.

June 28, 1998
Burke Ramsey's attorney in town

Brother of slain girl could be asked to give grand jury more information

By Christopher Anderson and Matt Sebastian
Camera Staff Writers

An attorney representing JonBenét Ramsey's 12-year-old brother reportedly is in town working out a deal to clear the boy's name or arrange a new interview with him that could provide additional information to the grand jury investigating JonBenét's 1996 slaying, according to media reports.

Jim Jenkins, an Atlanta attorney representing Burke Ramsey, is believed to be in negotiations with the Boulder County District Attorney's Office trying to protect his client from having to testify before the grand jury, KOA radio reported. Another report said Jenkins was trying to get the district attorney to clear Burke as a suspect.

Neither report could not be confirmed as of Wednesday night.

Jenkins did not return phone calls, but his wife said he was called out of Atlanta for a business trip for several days.

Jenkins also represents two older Ramsey children, Melinda and John Andrew Ramsey, who are among the few people cleared of the crime.

The grand jury met Wednesday for the first time in two weeks.

The meeting was unusual in that it fell on a Wednesday — the panel usually convenes on Tuesday and Thursdays — and lasted a full day, something that hasn't happened since mid-April.

According to one source, the meeting originally was scheduled for May 11 and then bumped to May 13 for unknown reasons. Prosecutors again rescheduled the session to Tuesday, the source said, and then pushed it up to today, before finally settling on Wednesday.

JonBenét, 6, was found beaten and strangled in the basement of her parents' Boulder home Dec. 26, 1996. Although her parents, John and Patsy Ramsey, remain under suspicion, they maintain their innocence.

Their son, Burke, has been interviewed by investigators at least three times since his sister's death, including a six hour interview last June by Broomfield police Sgt. Dan Schuler. Schuler, a 25-year veteran of the Broomfield police department and specialist in juvenile cases, has a master's degree in psychology and counseling.

Although at least some of those interviews were video-taped and could be shown to the grand jury in lieu of direct testimony, the panel may have new questions about the case since beginning its investigation in September.

Burke was the subject of wide-spread media attention last week after a tabloid reported that he was the focus of the grand jury investigation and that attorneys were working out a plea bargain with his parents. The Ramseys' attorneys and District Attorney Alex Hunter said those reports were false.

Investigators believe Burke's voice might be audible in a 911 recording of Patsy Ramsey's frantic call to police the day JonBenét purportedly was kidnapped and later found dead.

That would conflict with statements by John and Patsy Ramsey that Burke was asleep when the call was made, officials have said.

The grand jury is believed to be nearing a decision on whether to hand down an indictment, but there are new indications the investigation could spill over into June.

"I don't have a sense that it's going to be winding up soon," Denver District Attorney Bill Ritter, who is advising Boulder prosecutors on the Ramsey case, said during a Tuesday appearance on CNN's "Larry King Live."

"The grand jury is still very involved in investigating this case and it's going to be ongoing," he said. "You can't look for anything in the next two weeks."

But another adviser on the case, Adams County District Attorney Bob Grant, on Wednesday stuck with his prediction that the inquest will finish by the end of the month.

The grand jury began hearing evidence related to the JonBenét homicide case Sept. 15. Its term recently was extended until October, and funding for the inquiry is in place through the end of June.

May 20, 1999 |
Burke Ramsey not suspect in killing, DA's office says

By Christopher Anderson
Camera Staff Writer

Twelve-year-old Burke Ramsey is not a suspect in the 1996 death of his sister, JonBenét Ramsey, the Boulder County District Attorney's Office said Thursday night.

Without commenting on the nature of a recent visit by Burke Ramsey's attorney, spokeswoman Suzanne Laurion told KCNC-Channel 4 that the boy was not a suspect in the crime a year ago and "to this day Burke Ramsey is not considered a suspect."

Burke has been the center of a media frenzy during the past two weeks after a supermarket tabloid reported that he was responsible for his sister's death.

The report stirred media interest from reporters around the world, but the story was quickly squelched by firm denials from the district attorney's office and Ramsey attorneys.

Burke again became a focal point after it was learned this week that his attorney, Jim Jenkins, was in town. It is still unclear what the lawyer was negotiating, but there is speculation that the grand jury investigation JonBenét's death may be interested in asking Burke new questions.

Several months ago, investigators were interested in 911 tapes that reportedly recorded Burke Ramsey's voice in the background. If that is true, it would contradict statements from John and Patsy Ramsey that Burke was asleep at the time the call to police was made.

Authorities have interviewed Burke three times in connection with his sister's death, including a six-hour interview last year.

Burke's attorney could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Hunter's spokeswoman said Boulder Police Chief Mark Beckner publicly announced that Burke was cleared about a year ago when he answered a question from a KCNC-Channel 4 reporter. However, that report was not widely broadcast. Channel 4 announced during its 10 p.m. Thursday newscast that the boy is still not considered a suspect.

JonBenét, 6 , was found beaten and strangled in her family's home on Dec. 26, 1996. Her parents, John and Patsy Ramsey, have been the focus of the investigation, although the couple has repeatedly proclaimed their innocence.

May 21, 1999
Victim's brother, 12, questioned

By Marilyn Robinson
Denver Post Staff Writer

May 26 - Twelve-year-old Burke Ramsey was secretly questioned last week by the grand jury investigating his sister JonBenet's death. The next day, Boulder authorities publicly reaffirmed that he's not a suspect, only a witness.

Burke, 9 years old when his sister's body was found beaten and strangled in the basement of her parents' Boulder home in 1996, was subpoenaed to appear before the 12 grand jurors last Wednesday, according to a 9News report from Paula Woodward. His attorney, Atlanta-based Jim Jenkins, also attended the hearing, but the questions came only from the jurors, Woodward reported.

Burke's parents, John and Patsy Ramsey, could have contested the subpoena but did not.

The Boulder District Attorney's office declined comment.

"We just don't ever comment on grand jury matters, whether they're true or false,'' said Suzanne Laurion, spokeswoman for DA Alex Hunter.

The grand jury has been meeting since mid-September. Its work is secret, but it's believed neither of JonBenet's parents has appeared before the panel.

Burke's appearance before the grand jury came just one week after a national tabloid and other newspapers published stories saying he was the focus of the grand jury probe.

Denver trial lawyer Scott Robinson said Burke's appearance was no surprise.

"The grand jury is looking to solve the mystery of JonBenet,'' Robinson said. "It certainly makes sense that you would want to hear from her brother. He was one of at least four people in the house that night.''

The Ramseys have said Burke was asleep when Patsy discovered the ransom note claiming JonBenet had been kidnapped. However, he potentially could provide information about the relationship between the parents and the children and about the house, Robinson said.

"The grand jury almost had to have testimony from Burke,'' Robinson said. "If the target of the grand jury remains one or both of the parents, it makes sense in an investigatory sense to hear from Burke, but if the focus is elsewhere, such as an intruder, you would want to hear from him.

"And if the grand jury is leaning toward no indictment, they would want to have Burke testify if only to allay public skepticism of the absence of sufficient evidence to charge someone.'' Last June, authorities interviewed Burke in Atlanta, where the family now lives, over a three-day period. Two weeks later, his parents flew to Denver for extensive interviews.

John and Patsy are under what police have described as an "umbrella of suspicion.'' Last week, Boulder spokeswoman Leslie Aaholm said authorities also would like to hear more from them.

The grand jury's term, which originally expired in April, was extended for another six months.

"We still have investigation to do,'' said Police Chief Mark Beckner, declining to comment further.

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