No Closure in Boulder
One year ago, 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey was found
killed in her home. Today, the case remains as baffling and
disturbing as it ever was.
By Patrick O’Driscoll
BOULDER, Colo. – One year later, gawkers till drive by the
faux Tudor mansion where JonBenet Ramsey died.
Her family moved months ago, and the $1.2 million home is
for sale. But the tourists keep coming, mesmerized by the
mystery of who killed the 6-year-old beauty queen.
“People will go up and pretend to knock on the door, and look
over their shoulder at the camera,” says Patricia Nelson Limerick,
a University of Colorado history professor who lives across
the street. “It’s as if they’re having an outing to an amusement
The case has taken everyone connected with it on a roller
“Either this was the most horrific crime, committed by parents
on their own flesh and blood, or the Ramsey’s have been totally
victimized by the events of last Christmas,” says Craig Silverman,
a former Denver prosecutor.
Last week came the first new scrap of information in months:
The Ramsey family confirmed that a “stun gun” was somehow
involved in the murder of the girl. Police have been asking
neighbors whether they own one of the high-voltage devices,
used to immobilize a person. The Ramsey’s never had such a
weapon, spokesmen have said.
Neighbor Margaret Dillon says she was “flabbergasted” to be
asked a year later about a stun gun. “If it’s critical to
the case, why wasn’t it mentioned before?”
Police wouldn’t comment on that or whether JonBenet’s autopsy
showed evidence of a stun-gun attack.
The investigation has had its moments of drama. In February,
Boulder District Attorney Alex Hunter glared into the TV camera.
Addressing the unknown killer, he vowed: “We’re going to solve
this case. We will see that justice is served, and that you
will pay for what you’ve done to this beautiful little girl.”
Many doubt it. Others predict a grand jury will convene early
next year. If only to put the matter to rest by either indicting
someone or shelving the case for lack of evidence.
JonBenet Ramsey, named after her father John Bennett Ramsey,
was the reigning Little Miss Colorado when she was found beaten
and strangled the morning after Christmas 1996.
Her mother, Patsy Ramsey, had phoned 911 at 5:52a.m. to report
that her daughter was gone and that she had found a 3-page
Investigating the case as a kidnapping, police didn’t search
the home thoroughly, waiting instead for a kidnapper to call.
At about 1 p.m. a detective suggested to John Ramsey that
he look the house over once again. Minutes later, Ramsey and
a friend turned on the light in a little-used basement room
and found JonBenet’s body on the concrete floor. She was gagged
with duct tape, and crude nylon garrote circled her neck,
tightened with a broken wooden paintbrush.
Ripping the tape from her mouth, Ramsey gather her up and
took her upstairs, potentially contaminating evidence at the
murder scene and perhaps on her body.
Since then, critics have attacked Boulder police for botching
the earliest, most critical period of the investigation.
Within hours of discovering her body, the Ramsey’s had hired
lawyers. Within a week they hired a private investigator and
a public relations expert. The family offered a $100,000 reward
and even ran Sunday advertisements in Colorado newspapers
Boulder Police Chief Tom Koby, who has acknowledged mistakes
in the investigation, is stepping down next year.
“It is accurate to say that if we had it to do all over again,
we would do it differently,” he says. “What was in front of
us was a kidnapping. We pursued that until we understood that
we had something different.”
The investigation has been exhaustive and exhausting. Police
have compiled more than 18,000 pages of files. They traveled
to Atlanta, where the family had lived until 1991, to interview
relatives and friends the week after the murder.
And they took five samples of Patsy Ramsey’s handwriting to
compare with the ransom note, whose demands for $118,000 was
about the size of the bonus John Ramsey had received as president
of Access Graphics, a $1billion Boulder computer company.
The Colorado Bureau of Investigation reported that the handwriting
tests were “inconclusive.” But New York lawyer Darnay Hoffman,
who sued to force a prosecution in the case, says an analysis
by handwriting expert Cina Wong shows a high
probability the handwriting was Patsy Ramsey’s.
This month, lead investigator Cmdr. Mark Beckner, who took
over the investigation this fall, said his team was working
through a checklist of more than 70 items. The list includes
re-interviewing significant witnesses to re-testing some items
Throughout the investigation, police have said they have no
official suspects. But Beckner said at the news conference
Dec. 5 that the Ramsey’s remain under “an umbrella of suspicion.”
He also said his team has asked to re-interview the Ramsey’s
and JonBenet’s brother, Burke, 10, the only other person in
the house the night of the murder. But one of the Ramsey’s
legal representatives said last week that the family won’t
take up the issue of more interviews until after the new year.
-Contributing: Steve Marshall in Washington