Letter to District Attorney Alex Hunter

From New York Attorney Darnay Hoffman

May 24, 1997

Dear Mr. Hunter:

You may remember me from last March. I am a criminal and civil defense attorney who wrote to your office about the unusual similarities between the Lindbergh child kidnapping case and the JonBenét Ramsey murder. As a former student of Barry Scheck, who was my law professor at Cardozo Law School (Class of '82), and my law professor Telford Taylor, who was the chief prosecutor of the Nazis at Nuremberg, I have trained in "case profiling," and been taught by some of the best legal minds in America.

At the risk of being presumptuous, I would like to offer you a possible solution and profile of the Ramsey case. Naturally, I don't have the sort of information your office has, but I do have the advantage of "distance" from the hundreds of false clues and leads that often muddy the waters of a criminal investigation.


1) Patsy’s possible participation in this crime is the single most significant clue to this murder.

2) Although research shows that fathers are more likely to kill members of their families (over 80% of the time), Patsy Ramsey fits the profile of older women who kill family members. Remember: until forty years ago most intrafamilial homicides were caused by women.

3) Older women are most likely to kill their younger daughters. Frequently, it is the prospect of divorce or impending single parenthood, coupled with suicidal depression that often leads these mother's to think and respond anomically (i.e., "amorally"), which means they grow to believe that killing their children will actually "benefit" them. (Remember Patsy Ramsey's Susan Smith-like remark during her first CNN interview on January 1, 1997 when she referred to JonBenét as perhaps being "better off" not living old enough to become a cancer victim, or to experience the other heartaches of adulthood? This is classic "anomic" thinking by a parent who has just murdered their child).

4) The events in Patsy's life just prior to the day of the murder are highly significant: i.e., an isolated and comparatively unhappy, depressed older woman, about to turn forty; whose sixteen year marriage to an older man was showing signs of stress; whose body had begun to betray her former good looks with a sex organ cancer; whose beautiful and talented daughter began serving as a bittersweet reminder of lost youth, and whose unhappiness and disappointment in her gilded cage existence a thousand miles from her family and hometown of Atlanta, Georgia are clear indicators that Patsy may have been harboring suicidally depressed thoughts.

5) The need for Patsy to establish some kind of control in her life made her relationship with her daughter paramount. After all, Patsy had already lost control over where she lived, her body, her marriage to John, and the general direction of her life. Controlling JonBenét was the single most important "safety valve" in Patsy's life.

6) Patsy began losing control over JonBenét as her daughter reached six years old. At that age, children are no longer interested in satisfying their parents emotional needs to the exclusion of their own. This is the age when many children become openly resistant to continuing with their ballet, or ice skating, or piano lessons which have often been "forced" on them by their overly ambitious parents. It's an age when they just want to be "kids."

7) JonBenét displayed the usual degree of resistance, even demonstrating it with bedwetting.

8) Patsy began sensing her daughter's increasing independence, but she was too emotionally vulnerable and needy to completely accept it.

9) JonBenét’s bedwetting just became another in a series of frustrations and disappointments, and, consequently, took on greater symbolic importance than it normally would have were Patsy not sensing that her own life was "cascading" out of control.

10) Losing control of her daughter might have presented an intolerable threat to Patsy's psychological survival and may have even contributed to suicidal thinking on Patsy's part.

11) Suicidal thinking is the most common and prevalent emotional component in female homicides of family members, especially involving their younger children.

12) Although the precipitating event of the night of JonBenét’s murder remains unclear, the injury to JonBenét’s head is more constant with a parent who flew into a sudden rage, than with a parent involved in a pattern of sex abuse that resulted in an accidental homicide.

13) Patsy Ramsey's psychological profile does more to explain why she was more likely to go into a sudden rage (probably at the loss of control over JonBenét) than John Ramsey, who, by all accounts, was an absentee parent with little or no psychological investment in controlling his daughter's behavior that we know about. John had had three children by a prior marriage, and so had "been there, done that" as a parent. Sociological studies of affluent families show the husbands as assuming the role of "sole" financial support, with mothers assuming the more traditional roles as the exclusive arbiters of the children's behavioral development. While their husbands measure their success and status among their peers with wealth, these wives measure their status and success by how well they raise and control their children's behavior.

14) If Patsy Ramsey did, in fact, strike her daughter on the head with a blunt object in a blind rage, what would she have done next? Answer: What she had always done in the past, which was to go to John and have him "save" her.

15) "Saving" women like Patsy is what John Ramsey is all about. A man who made a fortune by creating a hands-on business, which he started on his kitchen table, and which he also "micro-managed," would be accustomed to playing Pygmalion to Patsy's Eliza Doolittle. As a former naval officer and airplane pilot, John Ramsey sees himself as calm and experienced in crisis management -- in fact, he prides himself in it.

16) One has only to remember how Richard Nixon engineered the Watergate cover-up (a crime he probably didn't initiate) to realize that certain personalities relish the challenge of being able to meet the demands of orchestrating a "cover-up" to "save" their subordinates, who are frequently people they feel morally superior to.

17) Since the single most important element in a parent/child homicide is the issue of CONTROL; and since the parent feels that they have lost control of their child, whether real or imagined, this would explain why the FBI claims that children between the ages of 0-2 are most often killed for uncontrolled crying and screaming ("shaken baby" syndrome), and children between the ages of 2-6 are killed for chronic bedwetting or lose of bowel control.

18) Who in the Ramsey household had the greatest "control issues" in their lives? John or Patsy?

19) The idea that John Ramsey "accidentally" killed JonBenét by strangling her in a strange sex-game ritual, or killed her to keep from being "exposed" by her threatening "to tell mommy", is the least likely of all the scenarios involving a family member being responsible for the murder. As Star Trek's Mr. Spock was so fond of saying: "It's possible, but not probable."

20) Studies show that incest victims are rarely physically hurt or killed by the molesting parent. Several of these studies show that parent pedophiles are remarkably non-violent.

21) The most likely scenario, assuming the injury sequence is one in which the head injury occurred first and the strangulation resulting from the staging occurred later, is one in which Patsy Ramsey assaulted her daughter in a fit of rage involving a "control issue" triggered by JonBenét’s chronic bedwetting, which then resulted in Patsy running to John and begging him to "save" her. John then foolishly agreed to help his wife by "staging" a horrific ritual kidnap/killing, thinking his daughter already dead from the blow to her head. Ironically, John's application of the ligature to JonBenét’s neck actually became the technical cause of JonBenét’s death in the coroner's report -- a completely unforeseen and unintended result -- thereby resulting in John's being "upgraded" from a mere accomplice after-the-fact, to the actual "murderer." When John learned what had occurred when the coroner's report was released several days later, he couldn't believe how far down into a hole he had buried himself.

22) Any theory of this crime, which involves Pasty as the "event initiator", is further borne out by the fact that the Boulder police and FBI have completely failed to drive a wedge between the two parents -- a common occurrence in solving domestic homicides (e.g., Joel Steinberg and Hedda Nussbaum). Most police clearances of domestic homicides involve a confession or eyewitness testimony by the "innocent" spouse. Neither Patsy nor John can give the other up -- even if one wanted to -- because they are now both equally culpable.

23) Psychologically, both Ramseys regard, and believe, the event to be "accidental." They are sincere in their expressions of love for their daughter and in their sorrow for her death. Like O.J. Simpson, the Ramseys don't believe "they" have killed anyone. "They" are not capable of murder. Some other "they", serving as their evil twins, or alter egos, reflexively, and defensively, created this accident and then covered it up, to prevent an uncaring world from condemning them. Why should a person's whole life be defined by a momentary loss of control -- to be branded as a murderer for all time, despite the years of good "works" and Christian deeds? Why, indeed, the Ramseys ask. They undoubtedly feel that they are suffering enough already as the result of the enormous public scrutiny and loss of reputation in the community. They also miss their daughter terribly, suffering enormous guilt and loss, the way most parents do when their children die prematurely from disease or accidents. Parents whose children die from their negligent care of them frequently don't go to jail. Why should the Ramseys?

So, in order to move this case to the next step, your office is probably going to have to take a page out of the prosecution's book in the Joel Steinberg/Hedda Nussbaum case. You may remember that the New York City police arrived in that case only to find a comatose six-year old girl dying on the living room floor of the apartment of a multi-millionaire criminal defense attorney and his common law wife. The DA had no forensic evidence, only two adults, each capable of committing the crime.

What to do? The DA Morgenthau arrested them both (sometimes "One Degree of Separation" between suspects in separate jail cells is more potent than a ton of DNA evidence). As usually happens in these cases, after her arrest, Hedda Nussbaum, with the help of her attorney Barry Scheck, gave Joel up, something she would never have done had she not been arrested and charged with murder. The DA gambled and won. It was worth it.

The only conceivable prosecution scenario that should break this case open is a grand jury indictment of the ransom note writer, who is then arrested and jailed on first degree felony murder charges, with no possibility of bail for first degree murder in Colorado. Time to reflect while in the confines of a jail cell should do the trick.

Well, that's it. If you would like to discuss this further, I'd be happy to do so. Good luck, you're really going to need it.

Very truly yours,

Darnay Hoffman