The Progress Index
Norfolk handwriting experts point finger at Jon-Benet’s
February 1, 1998
Written by: Charles Runnells, Staff Writer
Norfolk – Handwriting expert Cina Wong brimmed with excitement
the day big-shot lawyer Darnay Hoffman called her up.
And why not? Hoffman wanted Wong for what’s been called the
highest-profile child murder case since 1932. He wanted her
to compare the ransom note from the Jon-Benet Ramsey case
to handwriting samples reportedly from the 6-year-old beauty
“At the time, I hadn’t seen a copy of the ransom note yet,”
says Wong, a board-certified document examiner with Norfolk’s
David Liebman & Associates. “So I wanted to see it for
myself, as anyone in my line of work would. … I was really
Of course, that’s nothing compared to how she felt after examining
the writing samples.
“I was really shocked,” Wong says. “I mean, I was floored.
“There were over 51 similarities and that’s a heck of a lot
of similarities. You can’t ignore it.”
Just like that, two of Norfolk’s top handwriting experts were
involved in the most infamous child murder case since Charles
Lindbergh’s 2-year-old son was kidnapped and killed.
JonBenet Ramsey’s body was found Dec. 26, 1996, in the basement
of the family’s home in Boulder, Colo. The reigning Little
Miss Colorado had been strangled with a nylon cord and sexually
assaulted, according to newspaper accounts. Her skull was
Her mother, Patsy Ramsey, had telephoned police hours earlier
to report that JonBenet was missing and there was a ransom
The parents have repeatedly denied any part in their daughter’s
murder. And although investigators aren’t ruling out Patsy
Ramsey, they haven’t named any suspects yet.
This didn’t sit well with Hoffman, a New York City attorney
most famous for defending subway gunman Bernard Goetz in 1996.
In a surprise move this November, Hoffman filed a lawsuit
to make the Boulder district attorney file charges against
Patsy Ramsey or appoint a special investigator. The lawsuit
was based largely on evidence from Wong and David Liebman’s
“You have a really powerful case of circumstantial evidence
here,” Hoffman says. “I took this information (on the writing
analysis) to the Boulder District Attorney’s office, but they
weren’t interested in talking about it or about doing anything
In response to Hoffman’s subsequent lawsuit, DA Alexander
Hunter counter-filed to dismiss the suit. He called Hoffman’s
claims “premature and not ripe” since the case is still under
investigation, according to newspaper accounts.
Although a judge eventually ruled against Hoffman Jan. 20,
the lawyer plans to continue being a thorn in the DA’s side.
If the case goes before a grand jury, he hopes to testify
about the handwriting analysis – along with Liebman and Wong.
Hoffman learned of the hand-writing experts’ reputation through
word-of-mouth, and he contacted Wong in late October.
Wong, 35, is listed as the youngest person ever certified
by the National Association of Document Examiners, which certifies
handwriting experts to testify in court.
Liebman’s credentials include years of ongoing NADE training
and a master’s of science degree in biology education (with
a minor in psychology) from Old Dominion University. He’s
also the president of the NADE.
“David’s a recognized leader in his field,” Hoffman says,
“and Cina is the closest thing to a rising star that this
David Liebman & Associates handles a variety of cases,
mostly from people and companies seeking answers. Are these
insurance documents forged? Is Dad’s will the real thing?
Who wrote those insults on the bathroom wall? Did this doctor
sign his name to a fatal dosage of prescribed drugs?
To discover the truth, Wong and Liebman use dozens of tricks
from the high-tech to the common sense. They compare the writing
styles in the documents, the way the letters are shaped and
other details. They look at how paper is folded and stapled,
and at the paper’s age.
Ultraviolet and infrared light can reveal other details, such
as words that have been erased or covered over.
Those techniques showed 30 “points of similarity” between
the JonBenet Ramsey ransom note and her mother’s handwriting
samples (which includes a letter and several greeting cards),
A second examination by Liebman revealed more than 51 similarities.
The similarities are most obvious on the third page of the
ransom note where the jerky handwriting loosens up and becomes
In both the note and the Ramsey writing samples, many of the
letter shapes are formed the same way, with the same spacing
between words. The writer has a tendency to pull toward the
Also he or she likes to use exclamation marks, slang words
like “outsmarted” and “fat cat,” and pretentious phrases like
“The more I looked, the more I saw connecting Patsy Ramsey
to the ransom note,” Liebman says. “It proved without a doubt
that she actually wrote it. It doesn’t mean that she committed
the crime, btu she wrote the note, so she did know something.”
Liebman and Wong aren’t sure what’s next for them. They’re
disappointed that Hoffman’s lawsuit was dismissed, but they
hope to tell their findings to a grand jury later this year.
“I kind of expected it to be dismissed,” Wong admits. “People
say ‘How long can they drag this out for?’, and I guess the
answer is as long as they can.
“What Mr. Hoffman is doing is prodding and pushing the case
along a bit. That’s kind of a good thing.”
A grand jury hearing could be months away, but Wong and Liebman
are staying plenty busy in the meantime. In addition to their
other cases, they’ve been fielding interviews with national
and local television, radio and newspaper reporters.
“We just want justice,” Wong says, “and we want something
solved in this case. … The public opinion is that this thing’s
been going on for too long. People want this case to be resolved.”