Vanity Fair Article,
Who Killed JonBenet?
September 16, 1997
by Ann Louise Bardach
Patrol officer Richard French got to the home of John and Patsy Ramsey in the tony neighborhood adjacent to Chautauqua Park in Boulder, Colorado, within seven minutes of Patsy Ramsey's 911 call reporting that their six yr. old daughter, child beauty pageant winner JonBenet, had been kidnapped. It was 5:52 A.M. on Dec. 26, and the distraught and weeping mother, a former Miss West Virginia and Miss America contender, let French in. "John Ramsey directed me through the house and pointed out a three-page handwritten note which was laid on the wooden floor just west of the kitchen area," French reported. Subsequently, French told colleagues that he had been struck by how differently the two parents were reacting. While John Ramsey, cool and collected, explained the sequence of events to him, Patsy Ramsey sat in an overstuffed chair in the sunroom, sobbing. Something seemed odd to French, and later he would recall how the grieving mother's eyes stayed riveted on him. He remembered her gaze, and her awkward attempt to conceal it- peering at him through splayed fingers held over her eyes.
Seven hours later, the strangled bludgeoned body of the child was found in a storage room in the basement. French told fellow officers that he felt awful that he had not discovered it himself in his search of the house. For months he berated himself as he relived every moment of his hours there. While Patsy Ramsey had wept inconsolably, a dry-eyed John Ramsey had paced incessantly. Later, French recalled that the couple had barely spoken to or looked at each other. Though they were faced with the most calamitous tragedy of their lives, he did not see them console each other. But it was the image of Patsy weeping and watching him that haunted French, especially after he learned that she had been sitting directly over the spot-less than 15 feet below-where her child's body lay.
The Ramsey's, with JonBenet and their son, Burke, had Christmas dinner at the home of their best friends, Priscilla and Fleet White Jr., a mile or so away. After Ramsey had moved his computer company from Atlanta, to Boulder, in 1991, the Whites and the Ramsey's found they had much in common. Fleet White was also a successful tycoon, in the oil business. Both couples enjoyed sailing and had six yr. old girls with older brothers. Neither Patsy nor Priscilla worked, but both were committed volunteers. When John Ramsey and decided to throw his wife a surprise 40th birthday party a month earlier, on Nov.30, he turned to Priscilla to organize the event at the swank Brown Palace in Denver.
According to police reports, the Ramseys arrived home from the Whites' about 10 p.m. At 5:55 A.M. the Whites were awakened by John Ramsey, who told them to hurry right over. By 6:20 the Whites were there, joined by other friends, John and Barbara Fernie, and later by the Ramseys' minister, Father Rol Hoverstock. Several uniformed policemen assisted Rick French until 8:10 A.M., when Detective Linda Arndt arrived. Arndt's supervisor, Detective Sergeant Larry Mason, would get to the house later that day. The initial team assumed that the troubled, affluent couple were victims, not potential murder suspects. They even summoned two victim advocated to the house to comfort them. Arndt in particular, who was described by fellow officers as having "bonded" with Patsy Ramsey, made several critical and possibly irreparable errors in judgment.
The ransom note warned the couple not to contact the police but to await a phone call between 8 and 10 that morning. Arndt wrote in her report that "between 10:30 and noon, John Ramsey left the house to pick up the family mail," which she later saw him open and read. At one p.m., when no call had come, Arndt asked Ramsey and Fleet White to follow her to the kitchen. An investigator describes the scene: " She said, ' I want you to search this house. From top to bottom.' She had barely finished speaking when John Ramsey went directly to a small broken window on the north side of the house and paused. Fleet said to Ramsey, 'Hey John, look at this.' And John said, 'Yeah, I broke it last summer.' He wanted Fleet to see the window to set up an intruder theory, but no one but a small child or a midget could have crawled through that space. While Fleet is looking at the window, John disappears down the hall directly to the little room where the body is. It's a huge basement with a lot of rooms and corridors, but Ramsey went directly to that room He screamed, and Fleet ran to him. White had previously peered into that windowless storage room, but had not seen the body.
Lying on the cement floor was the lifeless JonBenet, dressed in a white knit shirt and long underwear. There was duct tape over her mouth. A garrote made of white cord and a broken artist's brush handle was around her throat, and there was cord around her right wrist. The body was covered with a white blanket from her bed. Nearby was her re "pageant nightgown," described by a relative as "her favorite possession." Ramsey yanked the tape from her mouth, and according to the investigator, "holding her with both hands around her a t the waist, the way you would a doll," carried her upstairs and laid her on the hardwood floor in the living room. " What was interesting was when Ramsey brought the body upstairs he never cried," related a source present at the time. "But when he laid her down, he started to moan, while peering around to see who was looking a t him." Linda Arndt lifted the child from the floor and placed her along side the Christmas tree. "Patsy collapsed right on top of JonBenet," said the source, "and then she got on her knees and screamed, 'Jesus, you raised Lazarus from the dead, Please raise my baby!" Arndt asked Father Rol to gather everyone into a circle around the child and lead them in a prayer. Numb with grief and horror, they bowed their heads and said the Lord's Prayer.
The following evening at the Fern's house in South Boulder, Linda Arndt approached John Ramsey, but Ramsey's lawyer friend Mike Bynum cut off the conversation, telling Arndt that legal advisers had been retained to speak for the Ramsey's. The next day the police were informed that the Ramseys had nothing to say and would answer no further questions.
Although John Ramsey was a life long conservative Republican, he turned to Haddon, Morgan & Foreman, a law firm almost synonymous with Colorado's Democratic political machine. "Take a look at their offices here in Denver," says Chuck Green, a columnist at The Denver Post, referring to the gated mansion that houses the firm. "Then take a walk over to the Governor's Mansion a few blocks away and tell me which one is bigger, and I'll tell you which one is more powerful." During the 70's and 80's Hal Haddon ran Gary Hart's campaigns for senator and was an adviser on his presidential campaign. Haddon became known as a power broker and kingmaker, and had a reputation for socializing with clients such as Hunter S. Thompson. Governor Roy Romer, former governor Richard Lamm, and Congressman David Skaggs are all political allies of Haddon, as is Alex Hunter, Boulder's longtime district attorney. Haddon's partners, Bryan Morgan and Lee Foreman, by arguing a controversial intruder theory, won an acquittal in the celebrated 1980 trial of Lee Bibb Lindsley, who was accused of murdering her husband, a prominent Colorado pediatrician.
Ramsey decided that his wife should have her own lawyers, and he retained Patrick Burke and Patrick Furman. Within a week of the murder, a media consultant named Pat Korten was also brought aboard, later to be replaced by Rachel Zimmer and Laurie Wagner*. In July, Denver's premier publicist, Charles Russell, was added to the payroll. In addition to his lawyers' team of private investigators, Ramsey retained the Denver firm of H. Ellis Armistead, as well as a former FBI criminal profiler and two handwriting analysts. After the police tried to question Ramsey's first wife in Atlanta, he also hired a lawyer there named James Jenkins.
Comparisons are inevitably made to O.J. Simpson, but John Ramsey is far wealthier. And unlike the Simpson Dream Team, Ramsey's lawyers have sought invisibility. (Ironically, two Simpson defenders, Barry Scheck and forensic scientist Henry Lee, have made themselves available to the Boulder D.A.-some say in an effort to refurbish their post Simpson image.) The one press conference Haddon's team has permitted the Ramseys, in the Boulder Marriott on May 1, was so elaborately orchestrated that it was called the "Ramsey infomercial" by Denver talk-radio host Peter Boyles. The Ramsey team of lawyers and publicists stood against a back wall, but the selected reporters had agreed not to question them.
It was not the first time that a carefully packaged appearance had backfired. On Sunday, January 5, media consultant Pat Korten had arranged to have television crews outside St. John's Episcopal Church in Boulder. During the service, "there was a special handout-personalized for the Ramsey family, offering prayers for them," says a parishioner who was present. "We were appalled, because a lot of people had qualms about believing them by then." Outside the church was a throng of photographers waiting to capture a sobbing Patsy, exiting on the arm of Barbara Fernie. "They totally used the church as a photo opportunity," says the parishioner.
The Ramsey's appearance on CNN in Atlanta on jan.1 had also raised questions. Why would a grieving couple go on national television while refusing to speak to the police? What did John Ramsey mean by saying, "I don't know if it was an attack on me, on my company..."?
Eight months after the murder-to the bafflement of the public, the FBI., and the police-Haddon's team has been singularly successful in dissuading Boulder DA Alex Hunter from filing chares. "The public perception-whether true or not-is that Hal Haddon can knock out Alex Hunter blindfolded with his hands tied behind his back, "says Chuck Green. Hunter's team is led by trial attorney Peter Hofstrom, a former prison guard at San Quentin who has worked with Hunter for 23 years; Trip DeMuth, Hofstrom's handsome assistant; and Lou Smit, a retired homicide detective. The police followed up their initial ineptitude by rapidly assembling a group of six experienced detectives. Led by Tom Wickman, they were Ron Gossage, Jane Harmer, Melissa Hickman, Steve Thomas, and Tom Trujillo. Hofstrom's and Wickman's teams are supposed to be working together in their high security war room, but trust between the two was quickly shattered.
Peter Boyles, whose daily coverage of the Ramsey case has won himself national celebrity, has an admittedly personal interest. Pioneer talk show host Alan Berg, his "best friend and mentor," was gunned downed in 1984 by neo-nazi thugs. Ramsey lawyers Pat Burke and Lee Foreman represented two of the accused. Boyles says that Alex Hunter, whom he calls Money Hall (of Let's Make A Deal Fame), "has never met a criminal he thinks is fit for jail." Chuck Green, who calls Hunter "Mr. Plea Bargain," has savaged his office as "the Hunter-Ramsey team.
During a three hour interview with me in June, Alex Hunter, an affable man of 61, acknowledged that most of the post murder behavior of the Ramseys was unusual. "No question about it. They lawyered up early on," he said. "Normally it is true, such victims throw themselves at the police and district attorney, offering and begging for information. The fact that they do not cooperate is most compelling, but it is not really evidence." Hunter asked me if I knew that Patsy Ramsey was a college graduate and had talent as a painter. He passed on information that "she ran the science fair" at her son's school, and that she had impressed lawyers with her outspokenness when she served on a recent jury. "She was fused with JonBenet," said Hunter. "It was more than mere love." As for John Ramsey, whom he referred to as an "ice man" he wondered aloud whether "someone as smart as Ramsey would write such a long note." Toward the end of our talk, he said, "These are not bad people," then hastily added, "of course, we know that good people can do bad things."
When I asked Hunter whether pressure from the Haddon team had gotten to him, he said, "I'm in the first year of my seventh term and have zero interest in running for state dogcatcher or congressman...so this business about me sinking my political fortune is nonsense....I don't feel any intimidation." However one insider says that Hunter " is twice removed from the case," and Hunter admits that he depends on Peter Hofstrom for his information. "He's the one that's keeping me advised...He's what I consider to be the lead guy."`
Which some say is the problem. The burly Hofstrom is an old friend of several of the Ramseys' lawyers, and he often socializes with Haddon's partner Bryan Morgan. Confronted by police officials about such a seeming impropriety, Hofstrom reportedly fumed, "I'm not stopping my breakfasts with Bryan. I've known him for 20 years." Patrick Burke, one of Patsy's lawyers, has also been sighted, says an investigator, "standing at the door of the off-limits war room," chatting with Hofstrom and DeMuth. And when investigators finally coaxed the Ramsey team into having its clients provide handwriting samples, it was done not at the police station but Hofstrom's house, "as if it were a goddamn afternoon tea." Assisting Hofstrom is retired detective, Lou Smit, described by Hunter as an "ace" and "the fox", but by his critics in the police department as "a delusional old man." Smit quickly came to believe that the Ramsey's were "good Christians" incapable of committing such a crime.
Both DA and police sources say it was Hofstrom who argued to provide the Ramsey's with copies of their original statements and police reports if they would sit down and talk to the police. These actions prompted a firestorm of criticism from legal experts. (The district attorney's office, the Ramsey legal team, and the BP have all refused requests for responses to this story.)
One day in early July, I was contacted by a source with firsthand knowledge of the investigation. I arranged to meet with him in a parking lot outside Boulder. Edgy and fearful, he said he was speaking to me only as a last resort. He said that a flow of privileged, confidential information critical to a case against the Ramseys has been leaked from the D.A.'s office to the Ramseys' lawyers with the efficiency of a sieve. He said that the Ramsey's have been provided with copies of all "the most sensitive and critical police and detective reports" as well as reproductions of both the ransom note and "practice" note found the same day. Haddon's team even persuaded Hofstrom and Hunter to give them "private viewings" of the original ransom notes and "the actual ligature and garrote." "The Ramseys' best defense attorneys are right inside Hunter's office," he mumbled bitterly.
The sharing of such information, says famed 25-yr FBI veteran Gregg McCrary, "is unprecedented and unprofessional and an obstruction of justice. It's criminal...It's possible you could make a case for prosecutorial malfeasance. It completely compromises the investigation." On Jan. 4, one of the R's private investigators left a message on McCrary's answering machine asking him to join their team as a profiler. McCrary had his secretary call to decline, he says, "because on a ratio of 12 to 1, child murders are committed by parents or a family member. In this case, you also have an elaborate staging - the ransom note, the placement of the child's body- and I have never in my career seen or heard about a staging where it was not a family member or someone very close to the family. Just the note alone told me the killer was in the family or close to it."
According to the confidential source, an unedited tape of the Ramsey's January 1 CNN appearance in Atlanta, which had been obtained by a court order in March, was also handed over to Haddon's office. But Hofstrom turned down repeated police requests to subpoena records of the Ramsey's toll phone calls and credit card purchases.
The source also explained the delay in the Ramsey police interviews. The Ramsey's lawyers had initially demanded that Patsy and John be interviewed at the same time, that the interview not exceed 90 minutes, that all previous police statements made by the R's be provided to them, and that Peter Hofstrom be present throughout. "The FBI came in and looked at the demand list given to the D.A. from the Ramseys and said, 'No way. You are not doing this interview.'" Early on, the police had invited the FBI to assist, but according to the source, the DA's team "disregarded everything the FBI expert suggested,...The D.A, blew up with the police, but they cancelled and endured the wrath of the media, the R's and the D.A.'s office. And the FBI stood up for them." According to McCrary, "If there's a tutorial on how not to conduct an interview, this would be it.
The interview finally took place on April 30, four months after the murder. After being pounded for refusing to cooperate with the police, the Ramsey's gave in to two separate interviews, but they held fast to their demand for a copy of the entire police file and the presence of Hofstrom. Patrick Burke and one of his private investigators sat next to Patsy Ramsey, who answered questions for six and a half hours. John Ramsey was accompanied by Bryan Morgan and another private investigator for his 90 minute session. The questioning was conducted by Detectives Tom Trujillo and Steve Thomas.
Prior to the Ramsey interviews a show-and-tell presentation had been arranged by the Ramsey lawyers to convince Hunter that their clients had not written the ransom note. According to police reports, Patsy had given two accounts of the morning's events. "Mrs. Ramsey told me that she had gone into JonBenet's room at about 5:45 to wake her up," Officer French wrote. Finding the room empty, she went down the spiral back stairs, where she discovered the note. Later she said she found the note on the spiral back stairs when she went down to make coffee, and then ran to JonBenet's room. The note was written in uppercase and lower case printed letters on paper torn from a legal pad found in the house. Also discovered on the pad was the practice note, beginning "Mr. and Mrs. Ramsey." Kidnappers, says McCrary, "do not spend hours at a crime scene after murdering their victims composing letters."
Listen carefully! We are a group of individuals that represent a small foreign faction. We respect your business but not the country that it serves. At this time we have your daughter in our possession. She is safe and unharmed and if you want her to see 1997, you must follow our instructions to the letter. You will withdraw $118,000 from your account. $100,000 will be in $100 bills and the remaining $18,000 in $20 bills. Make sure that you bring an adequate size attach6 to the bank. When you get home you will put the money in a brown paper bag. I will call you between 8 and 10 A.M. tomorrow to instruct you on delivery. The delivery will be exhausting so I advise you to be rested. If we monitor you getting the money early, we might call you early to arrange an earlier delivery of the money and hence an earlier pickup of your daughter.
Any deviation of my instructions will result in the immediate execution of your daughter. You will also be denied her remains for proper burial. The two gentlemen watching over your daughter do not particularly like you so I advise you not to provoke them Speaking to anyone about your situation such as police or F.B.I. will result in your daughter being beheaded If we catch you talking to a stray dog, she dies. If you alert bank authorities, she dies. If the money is in any way marked or tampered with, she dies. You will be scanned for electronic devices and if any are found, she dies. You can try to deceive us, but be warned we are familiar with law enforcement countermeasures and tactics. You stand a 99% chance of killing your daughter if you try to outsmart us. Follow our instructions and you stand a 100% chance of getting her back. You and your family are under constant scrutiny, as well as the authorities. Don't try to grow a brain, John. You are not the only fat cat around so don't think that killing will be difficult. Don't underestimate us, John. Use that good, southern common sense of yours. It's up to you now, John. Victory! S.B.T.C."
Investigators question why Ramsey seemed to stall over getting the ransom money if he truly believed that the note had been written by dangerous kidnappers. "The money never left the bank," says one insider dryly. "Out of the 74 names submitted for testing, Patsy's handwriting was the only one that set off alarm bells," says an investigator closely involved with the testing of the ransom note. A C.B.I. report concludes, "There are indications that the author of the ransom note is Patricia Ramsey, but the evidence falls short to support that definitive conclusion.
Hunter's team asked the police to accompany them to Haddon's team's demonstration at the office of Mike Bynum. 'The tables were arranged in a horseshoe, "says an insider, "and six of the Ramsey attorneys were there watching the detectives watch their two handwriting experts. It was total bullshit. Hunter and DeMuth are nodding their heads in agreement as these guys are talking." Ramsey attorney Lee Foreman was seen giving DeMuth a backrub during a break. After the demonstration, Alex Hunter was overheard asking Haddon, "Well, where should we go from here?"
"Why are they showing unindicted, uncharged murder suspects all the evidence? " the source asks. "Is this some privileged discovery process available to rich Boulderites? Everything they have done is against the advise of the Boulder police, the FBI, and the Attorney General's Capital Crimes Unit!"
It's cold outside and I suggest that we find a late-night coffee shop. In the car, I can see the depth of this man's agitation. "I have never seen politics and preferential treatment play such a major role in any case," he says. "If the Ramsey's had been some poor Mexican couple, they would have been in their face for a week, got a confession out of them, and filed first degree murder charges against them within days."
It's not as if the police haven't committed their own share of blunders. In the first 48 hrs. they made crucial mistakes, including not conducting a thorough search of the house, not separating the R's and taking everyone down to the station for questioning, and not sealing the crime scene. In subsequent days, according to the source, Linda Arndt continued to speak regularly with Patsy and her close friends. In fact, in the first week of Jan., without permission from the department, Arndt gave Ramsey attorney Patrick Burke a copy of the ransom note. "There should have been thunder rolling down the halls of the PD, and shit didn't happen," says one observer. "She could be the Mark Fuhrman of this case." In mid-May, Linda Arndt was taken off the case.
Other public relations disasters ensued. Detective Division commander John Eller, greatly admired by his team, but detested by the D.A.'s office for his tenacity in pursuing the Ramseys, applied for the job of police chief in Cocoa Beach Fla. Larry Mason, Linda Arndt's supervisor, who had been dismissed from the case in Jan, sued Eller for damaging his reputation. In June, Chief Tom Koby took a two week vacation in Houston, where it is widely rumored that should his old pal Lee Brown win election as mayor he'd like to be the city's new police chief. Weeks earlier, the police union had voted no confidence in Koby, and soon after City Manager Tim Honey, Koby's good friend and biggest cheerleader, resigned. "Koby's idea of police work is social work," says the confidential source scornfully. Morale became so low that Mayor Leslie Durgin received an assurance from Koby that he would see the case through.
No matter what mistakes the police made, they have been exponentially compounded by blunders and improprieties in the DA's office. By May, according to the confidential source, the police and the D.A. were conducting separate investigations. Hofstrom's team, he says, was committed to shielding the Ramsey's, while the police were convinced that the Ramseys murdered their daughter and covered up the crime. The police, he added, have been supported throughout by the FBI and the CBI. "These guys tell the cops they have never seen anything like this," he says, before reciting a litany of "unprecedented" actions by the D.A. Murder suspects are routinely requested to submit to a polygraph test, but when the detectives told Hofstrom to ask the Ramsey's for one, He snapped, "No way! They would only refuse." In May, Hofstrom's assistant, Trip DeMuth, sat down with Ramsey attorney Bryan Morgan to formulate the first of a series of reward ads, which ran in a Boulder paper on June1. Later the D.A., responding to a barrage of criticism, admitted his office's involvement in the ad.
By April the police had decided that they could no longer share all their information with the D.A., and that they would keep their most damning evidence to themselves. In June a war-room computer was allegedly broken into. Two weeks later a statement from the C.B.I. reported that there had been a glitch in the system. Nevertheless, says the confidential source, "Three experts told the detectives definitively that the computer was hacked."
Since then the police have considered asking the Governor to bring in a special prosecutor, or simply arresting the Ramsey's themselves. "The affidavits for their arrest have been ready to serve since May," says the source. Perhaps foreseeing the possibility of a police mutiny, Hunter told me in June, "The police could go to a judge without coming to me and submit an affidavit for an arrest warrant...They could do that, but the D.A. would then say, "That's great, but I am not bringing charges.'" As I was leaving, Hunter mused aloud, "If we file or we don't file, these people are doomed. They have been tried and convicted in the court of public opinion."
Every week the tabloids in every supermarket in America scream out their verdict on the Ramsey: DADDY DID IT...BENET AUTOPSY: MOM AND DAD GUILTY...HANDWRITING EVIDENCE FINGERS PATSY...MOM WROTE RANSOM NOTE...JonBenet RAPE SHOCKER...DAD LINKED TO KIDDIE PORN SCANDAL...JONBENET"S MOM KNOWS THE KILLER-HER HUBBY.
The Globe came up with the graphic crime-scene photographs of the Ramsey house. But The National Enquirer held it's own by publishing a chat with Patsy out shopping, while the Star ferreted out that large amount of child pornography had been downloaded on Access computers. In January, The Globe offered a reward of 50,000 for evidence leading to the arrest of the killer. That prompted the Ramsey's to raise the $50,000 reward they had offered to $100,000. In July the Globe upped the ante to $500,000.
Citing unnamed sources within the investigation, the tabloids have laid out two primary theories. The first has it that John Ramsey killed his daughter after a "sex game" went awry. The second posits that Patsy Ramsey walked in on her husband molesting the child, grabbed a heavy object, and swung at him but hit her daughter by mistake. A variation on this theory has it that Patsy, in a rage, struck her daughter or threw her against a hard surface. Both theories suggest that JonBenet's death was not planned but accidental, and then elaborately covered up.
And why have the Ramsey's not sued? Perhaps because a murder defendant actually has more of a right to privacy than a libel plaintiff. He can always take the Fifth Amendment. If he sues for libel, he loses that privilege. Whether the Ramsey's are innocent or guilty, says First Amendment attorney Floyd Abrams, "I would advise them not to sue, because they are suspects, and would have to answer the most intensive and intrusive question."
There is evidence to support certain contentions published in the tabloids. The autopsy report, released in full-by court order-in August, established that JonBenet died from a tremendous blow to the side of her head, which caused an eight-and-a-half-inch fracture, and from garroting. Dr. Richard Krugman, a specialist in child abuse brought in as a consultant by Hunter's office, says that there was a vaginal abrasion, which "is a sign of trauma,[but] it's not a sign of sexual abuse necessarily."
Dr. Cyril Wecht, a well-known forensic pathologist, has no doubt that the 45-pound child was molested. "If she had been taken to a hospital emergency room, and doctors had seen the genital evidence, her father would have been arrested," he has said. The vaginal opening, according to Dr. Robert Kirschner of the University of Chicago's pathology department, was twice the normal size for six-yr.-olds. "The genital injuries indicate penetration," he says, "but probably not by a penis, and are evidence of molestation that night as well as previous molestation." There were also blood and urine stains on her underpants. A considerable obstacle to investigators, according to one well-placed source in the D.A.'s office, was the fact that "the crime scene and the body were cleaned up, although not sterilized." Adding to the mishaps, the coroner didn't examine the body until seven hours after it was discovered, and then spent only 10 minutes at the crime scene.
Most stunning, according to some experts, was the revelation that the child had evidently been "re-dressed" after her murder. JonBenet's parents told investigators that she was wearing a red turtleneck pajama top when they put her to bed. She was found in a white one; a red turtleneck was in her bathroom sink. Navy-blue "fuzz balls" adhered to her body, and investigators are searching for a match. Casting doubt on the theory that an intruder killed JonBenet were the state and condition of the child's body. She was fully clothed and covered with one of her blankets. The ligatures around her neck and right wrist were, investigators say, "very loose," consistent with staging. Moreover, there were no footprints in the melting snow around the house. Gregg McCrary adds that pedophiles and ransom kidnappers never overlap. "Pedophiles grab the child, molest them, and discard them. Ransom kidnappers are in it strictly for the money," he says. Although the coroner did not specify time of death, a neighbor told police that she had been awakened shortly after midnight by a loud, piercing scream coming from the direction of the Ramsey house. The Ramsey's told the police they heard nothing.
John Ramsey's children from his first marriage, Melinda, 25, and John Andrew, 21, along with Melinda's boyfriend, Stewart Long, arrived at the Ramsey house at 7:55 P.M. on December 26. Ramsey ran to the curb to meet them. Long ,a med-school graduate, told police that Ramsey had said that JonBenet had gone to heaven," and that he had found her body at 11:00 A.M., although, according to police reports, he found the body at 1 in the afternoon. The following day, investigators videotaped an interview with John Andrew, at the conclusion of which they asked him what he thought an appropriate punishment would be for the person that committed this crime. After a long pause he said, "Forgiveness." Incredulous, the detectives went into the brutality of his half-sister's murder and asked him to reconsider his answer. Another silence ensued, then he said again, "Forgiveness." (John Andrew Ramsey and Long declined to comment)
There was really no place for this searing tragedy in the exemplary lives of John and Patsy Ramsey. Access Graphics had outperformed its best expectation and in 1996 had revenues of 1 billion. Patsy had celebrated more than a year of remission from the cancer which struck her in 1993. She had great plans for her family, her work at the Junior League, and of course, JonBenet's career. The child had already been crowned Little Miss Charlevoix, America's Royal Miss, National Tiny Miss Beauty, and Little Miss Colorado, and had won more than a dozen talent and personality awards. The buzz on the pageant circuit was "This one's going all the way."
John Ramsey had been raised in the middle class town of Okemos, Michigan. The elder of two sons, he has been described-then and now-as "extremely quiet" and "reserved." His mother, Mary Jane Bennett, died in the mid-seventies. His father, James, was a decorated World War II pilot who ran the Michigan Aeronautics Commission until he retired in 1979. Ethelwynne Gibson, 82, who still lives across the street from the old Ramsey home, says of James, "They always called him Czar Ramsey because he always ran the airport his way." A Ramsey friend who met the elder Ramsey in the mid-80's recalls, "He was very cold, like John was with everybody."
At Michigan State University, Ramsey became president of the Theta Chi chapter, and in 1966 he married a college classmate, Lucinda Pasch. Following R.O.T.C. training, Ramsey spent two years in the navy, stationed at Subic Bay in the Philippines, while earning his pilot wings.
After receiving his master's in marketing in 1971, Ramsey signed up for the management-development program at AT&T. Jeff Merrick met him there that same year, when Ramsey was living in Columbus, Ohio. "He's extremely quiet," says Merrick, a handsome and gregarious man, adding, "He could be very charming." In 1973, Ramsey moved his young family to Atlanta and went to work at a computer company. Although he and Merrick drifted apart, they stayed in touch. In 1976, during a visit to Atlanta, Merrick and his then wife stayed with John and Lucinda and their children.
Jim Marino met Ramsey on a business trip to Syracuse in the late 70's. "We immediately became friends," says Marino. "He was going through a divorce at the time, but he'd always check in with the kids." However, in his own quiet way, John Ramsey also had an eye for the ladies. According to police reports, his former wife, Lucinda, said it was a romantic liaison with a co-worker that was the last straw for her. Although Marino and Ramsey caroused "and whored around together," Marino says Ramsey was notably discreet. "You never got much out of him," says Marino. "you wondered what he was all about."
Although Ramsey walked away from his first wife with little more than his clothes and a car, he slowly began to prosper as he worked his way through a series of computer companies. His success, says Marino, was part of his appeal to women. "He had money, he drove a Porsche, he dressed nice, but he was shy. However, you could say that whatever he went after he usually got." In 1978, Marino, after being injured in a motorcycle accident, was confined to a wheelchair for almost a year. "John came and visited me, and he gave me a job," says Marino. "He saved my life." Although the two went to work for different companies in 1980, they remained close friends.
In 1979, Ramsey caught a glimpse of a beautiful 22-yr old brunette in Atlanta and pursued her. Two years earlier, while a journalism major at West Virginia University, Patricia Ann Paugh had been crowned Miss West Virginia and had won a talent award for a dramatic reading at the Miss America pageant. Marino, who often double dated with Patsy and Ramsey said his friend was deeply smitten with her. "She was his Jackie Kennedy."
In 1980 they were married in Atlanta's Peachtree Presbyterian Church. At 37, Ramsey was 14 yr. older than Patsy. The couple settled into a modest Cape Cod house in the Dunwoody section of Atlanta. Ramsey ran his own company, Microsouth, from the house, and patsy worked along side him. After a series of business reversals, Patsy asked her father, Don Paugh, a retired Union Carbide engineer, to help her husband's struggling company. "The word is," says Merrick, "that John was going broke and Don bailed him out financially."
Although Don and Nedra Paugh were able to raise their three daughters- Patsy, Pam and Polly- in the middle -class town of Parkersburg, West Virginia, both had endured hardscrabble childhood. Rescued by the G.I. Bill, Don had obtained a college degree, which led to a career at Union Carbide. "Nedra saw Don as this great white knight," says Marino. In contrast to her laconic husband, the wiry Nedra was driven and relentless, determined to see that her daughters enjoyed more of the good things in life than she had. Nedra's vehicle for launching them into prosperity was beauty pageants.
"I did my first pageant when I was a junior in high school," Pam Paugh told me. "I won the national crown for that, and I won a local count-fair contest-at the Wood County fair-in 1977, which Patsy also won." In 1980, three years after Patsy held the crown, Pam was also Miss West Virginia and a Miss America contestant. Nedra had become a fixture on the pageant circuit. "She was involved in the whole Miss America Pageant organization when I met them," says Marino. "She was one of the coordinators."
Jeff Merrick didn't meet Patsy until 1982. He was on a business trip to Atlanta, and John Ramsey invited him over for dinner. "After dinner we went to a big disco. Patsy and I danced, but John didn't dance with Patsy." In fact, in the 20 yrs. he's known him, Marino has never seen his friend show physical affection. "I never saw John hug Patsy or even give her a kiss, even when they were dating," he says. "The first time I saw [them touch] was after the murder, and I saw him hold her hand on TV when they left the church memorial.
By the mid-80's, John Ramsey, working with his father-in-law, was doing well enough to move into a sprawling Colorado house in Dunwoody. Patsy saw to it that both of the Ramsey's daughters from his first marriage were given coming out parties. Judith Phillips, an ebullient, attractive photographer, first met Patsy in 1984, when Patsy was working with Phillips's husband's modem-development company. "In order to be friends with Patsy, you have to accept her family, because they are such a big part of her life, especially her mother," says Phillips. "Sometimes Nedra was obnoxious and said things that were so out of line and shocking, but the woman is unbelievable in her loyalty toward her daughters."
Patsy and Judith Phillips, raising children roughly the same age, were drawn to each other, although there were differences. "Patsy was very pro-life," says Phillips. "I was a feminist." Patsy was involved in Atlanta's Junior League and a ladies-who-lunch charity called SocieTea. And up until the birth of her son, Burke, she worked. Phillips says Patsy had very expensive taste. "She had 18th-century artwork and exquisite antiques, and John has very expensive and classic taste when it comes to his clothes. He liked his toys. He has a boat [named Miss America] and a plane."
In 1989, Ramsey merged his company with Boulder-based Access Graphics and another firm. He seized control of the new company and in 1991 relocated his family to Boulder. Among his new hires were his old friends Jeff Merrick and Jim Marino. Ramsey then hit the jackpot, selling Access to Lockheed Martin and continuing to run it as president and C.E.O. Judith Phillips, who had moved to Boulder three yr. earlier, wondered if Patsy would have a hard time making the transition from the antebellum capital of the South to a small town full of hippies, Buddhists, and mountain climbers. However, Patsy, now the mother of a four-year-old Burke and newborn JonBenet, assured her that she "was ready to have a different life." Don Paugh adapted easily and moved into a company condo on Pearl Street. Nedra Paugh, however, made no bones about her feelings concerning Boulder, referring to it as "that hellhole."
In Nov. 1991, the Ramseys purchased a 6,800-square foot Tudor style house in one of Boulder's choice neighborhoods for about $500,000. Over the next two years, Patsy remodeled and decorated her new home, spending, according to Jim Marino, $700,000. She was thrilled to have the house listed on the Boulder Christmas tour, as well as on the home tour. Visitors recall her greeting them at the door with JonBenet and Burke by her side, all of them in matching sweaters. Featured in JonBenet's room were her trophies, sashes, and medals. One visitor said that in the huge master-bedroom suite Patsy's Miss West Virginia dress and her Miss America competition sash were laid out on the bed.
Although the Ramsey's had been Presbyterians, they joined St. John's Episcopal Church. "Social climbing," says Marino sadly; "she wanted to be where the money was.' Friends were dropped as well, replaced by attractive, wealthy Boulderites. Marino says, "I was never invited to his house. John and I were 'Let's get a beer down at the local pub after work."
Patsy also redecorated their vacation home in Charlevoix, on Lake Michigan. "The only time I ever saw John really lose his temper was about Patsy and money," says Marino. "he would throw the credit cards on his desk and say, 'She's gonna spend every last penny I make.' "
Jane Stobie, a former manager who began working at Access Graphics in 1990, even before Ramsey took control of the company, characterizes Patsy's spending as "Sherman shopping Atlanta." She learned quickly that Patsy, who often planned social functions for the company, did everything on the grandest of scales. "We saw the bill for this luncheon in Atlanta that Patsy had arranged, organized around the theme of Gone With The Wind, with actors playing Scarlett and Rhett, and it was over $33,000." She adds that the luncheon could have been given for between $5,000 and $10,000.
In 1993, Stobie was sent to Atlanta to run the office there and eventually shut it down, even though Nedra, Polly, and Pam Paugh were on the payroll. According to numerous ex-employees, Ramsey always delegated firings to others, even when it came to family. "My job was to manage Nedra, and really, career-wise, I was hanging myself...Don Paugh was there like once a month...He did not want to be in Atlanta. That was very clear.
"Nedra was intensely competitive," continues Stobie. "She shared a story about how when the girls were running for Miss West Virginia some woman in the pageant had a ring that was so many carats big, so Nedra had to go out and buy one that was bigger. While I was working there, I got engaged and wore my one-carat engagement ring down there. The next day she came in with a four-carat ring, and she said to me, 'yours is a nice starter ring.'...A woman who worked for me in Georgia said, 'These are the meanest people I have ever met.' "
The Paugh house, a brick Colonial with a circular driveway, was a matter of great pride to Nedra. One investigator described their living room as "the shrine room," bedecked with trophies, ribbons and photographs of their pageant winning daughters. "They were so meshed up in each other, and it was my gut instinct that told me something wasn't right there," says Stobie.
"They were going on and on about the size of Burke's penis. This, to me, was so bizarre....Nedra's like a little bird, but both Pam and Polly were overweight...There was Slim-Fast everywhere." Patsy, on the other hand represented real success. "We love spending the money John Ramsey makes," Nedra was fond of telling folks. And when Patsy gave birth in 1990 to a little girl with an angelic face, Nedra was rapturous. Stobie recalls that in 1993, when JonBenet was two, "they were already talking about her in terms of being Miss America...The real tragedy is that this girl didn't have a chance."
For all her dreamy looks, JonBenet (a combination of John and Bennett, Ramsey's middle name) was not an easy child. "They would talk about how incorrigible she was," says Stobie, "and, at the same time, the she's-so-cute-she's-going-to-be-Miss-America thing." What wasn't discussed was the fact that JonBenet was a chronic bedwetter. Linda Hoffman-Pugh, the Ramsey housekeeper, told police that the only housework Patsy Ramsey ever did was to change and wash JonBenet's sheets every day before Hoffman-Pugh arrived for work. "There was a plastic sheet covering the mattress," Hoffman-Pugh explained to me. A former nanny adds that JonBenet wore Pull-Ups-diaper underwear-during the day. In the three years before the child's death( Patsy took her to the pediatrician 30 times.
While John Ramsey became increasingly focused on his company's skyrocketing growth, Patsy spent her energy on her daughter's career and on charities and shopping. She organized several of the programs at her children's schools and offered to underwrite her softball league, Moms Gone Bad, for its first two years. She developed a tight-knit circle of well-to-do mothers, including Priscilla White and Barbara Fernie.
To the pageant moms, Patsy Ramsey, having been a Miss America contestant, was close to being royalty. One of her most impassioned defenders has been Pamela Griffin, who sewed many of JonBenet's costumes and whose 19 yr. old daughter, Kristine, also a pageant winner, coached and baby-sat JonBenet. Praising Patsy effusively, Griffin cites her generosity and kindness. She says she is baffled by the lawyers decision to muzzle the Ramseys. "I have told Patsy's mom over and over that I wish she would talk...People fall in love with Patsy just talking to her...She is a force to be reckoned with , just like her mother, who is the tiniest little fireball you've ever seen. You don't cross that woman, and Patsy is just like that in defense of her children....The whole notion that John Ramsey could be molesting the child and Patsy covering up for him is almost funny."
LaDonna Greigo, another pageant mom, whose daughter, BreAnne, nine, passed on a Little Miss Colorado crown to JonBenet last year, can't speak highly enough of the Ramseys. "Patsy in not your normal, snobby rich person." To gain some insight into the pageant world, I went to the Little Miss Hawaiian Tropic pageant in Denver in June, held in one of the banquet rooms of the Red Lion Hotel. A small stage and runway, decorated in purple, turquoise, and green tinsel palm trees, took up almost half of the room.
About 50 moms, many of them seriously overweight, and a scattering of men watched as girls from infants to teenagers-several of whom had competed against JonBenet-paraded before the judges. In an adjoining room, the girls changed from costume to costume for the various events-swimwear, formalwear, sportswear. Anxious mothers fussed over them, spraying their hair, lavishing make-up on their faces, and whispering tips and encouragement. Some of the women, incensed over the bad press pageants have been getting, sought to disabuse me of "the lies you may have read." Others simply confirmed the criticism.
"JonBenet wanted to do it. She loved it," insists Pam Paugh. "JonBenet would have done a pageant every day if Patsy had let her, but Patsy said no: 'Church comes first on Sunday, and the other days we'll do pageants or whatever.'...But wouldn't we-mother and aunt, former Miss America contestants-be doing less than we should if we didn't get her ready? Get her dressed and have her look most exquisite?"
JonBenet's former nanny recalls otherwise: "She would say to me, 'I don't want to walk down the runway. It scares me.' She liked to perform but didn't want to have to compete." The pageant videos of JonBenet strutting seductively down runways, which were played ceaselessly on television, scandalized many viewers who were unaware that child pageants even existed. JonBenet has been variously described as looking like "a six year old Lolita," "a pint -sized sex kitten," and "daddy's little hooker." Her mock vamping has been called "kiddie porn. "The Ramseys were flabbergasted at the outrage over JonBenet's pageant photos and videos.
At the Ramsey's May 1 press conference, patsy minimized her daughter's pageant life as just "a few Sunday afternoons." But Marilyn Van Derbur Adler, a former Miss America who has gone public with her story of incest, says, "That's when I knew this woman was in serious denial. Pageant life is full time. There are dance teachers and singing teachers and costume fittings, rehearsals, make-up, and hair. It is not a hobby. It is a career. "JonBenet began competing by age four.
Pam Paugh is indignant over the coverage of her niece. "They said she went for French manicures once a week. That is a lie! The night before every pageant -and I was at every single one of them-we would do what we call the 'pageant scrub,' " she says. "And it was a fun time in the bathroom...Scrub up the knees. Make sure the nails are cleaned, neat, and trimmed. We washed her hair, and Aunt Pam would do the little French manicure, and that was that. Patsy and I did her hair. I am a Channel makeup artist...and that child wore so little makeup, because she didn't need it." Paugh concedes that JonBenet's hair was lightened, which Patsy always denied. The former nanny says JonBenet's hair was a light golden brown which suddenly turned platinum blond. "I said to her, 'So who's dying your hair, JonBenet?' She was all goshed. 'You're not supposed to say anything about that.' I said 'O.K., it will be our little secret.' "
"By the way," says Paugh proudly, "I designed most of her clothes...And they were professionally made...and they are very ladylike. JonBenet won top honors in her ward-robing every place we went...I worked with JonBenet on all her music. She had a lovely voice. Now, for ' Cowboy Sweetheart' she had a little routine that was taught to her by Miss Kit, who was a dance instructor...patsy designed the Cowboy Sweetheart outfit and Pam Griffin made it. I designed the black-and -white Chanel sportswear outfit with the little polka-dot underskirt."
Griego, Griffin, and another mom, Tammie Polson, say that they never saw any signs that JonBenet was not enjoying herself. Others say they had glimpses of a strain on the child. One often told story took place at Pasta Jay's , a restaurant run by the Ramseys' close friend Jay Elowsky. According to one version: "It must have been some kind of dress up affair or pageantry thing, because JonBenet was all dressed up with makeup and a gown. She got cold and went up to her mother and said, ' Mommy, I'd like to wear my jacket, I'm cold.' And Patsy said firmly, 'Not now honey, you're still on display.' "
Mike Glynn, a former divinity student, met Ramsey in 1991, when he was recruiting coordinator for the University of Colorado's football team. He needed someone to donate computer equipment to the school. Jay Elowsky introduces Glynn to Ramsey, and the two struck up a close relationship.
Ramsey came through with the computers and in time offered Glynn, who speaks several languages, a position on the international side of his company. With daughters close in age, the Glynns and the Ramseys often socialized. "The family was almost make-believe. Too perfect. It was like Ozzie and Harriet came to Boulder," says Glynn. "But John could really get angry. I saw this on a few occasions involving business. Shouting and threatening. His eyes bulging like you cannot believe. It seemed like Jekyll and Hyde."
In 1992 the Ramsey's were blindsided by a series of tragedies. On January 8, Ramsey's eldest daughter, Elizabeth, was killed in an automobile accident. Ramsey was devastated. Jim Marino sees Elizabeth's death as the watershed event in Ramsey's life. "There was a significant change when she died," he says. "He became more introverted." A few months later, Ramsey's father who had married john's first wife's mother, also died.
In the summer of 1993, Patsy was diagnosed with metastasized ovarian cancer. "It was stage four. It was clear up underneath the rib cage," says Pam Paugh. Patsy began commuting to the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, for chemotherapy, and she took Taxol.
"I took John aside and said, 'You really need to do everything you can to help her,' "recalls Mike Glynn. "He needed to be reminded and he did take time off and traveled with her." Judith Phillips was distressed to learn that her very ill friend was flying back and forth across the country by herself, "sick as a dog, vomiting...Where the hell was [John]?" In 1995 the cancer went into remission. "She was healed of God," claims Pam, "because she had cancer one day and not the next."
Patsy's illness, according to one knowledgeable insider, was complicated by the fact that implants from breast augmentation early in her marriage ruptured and needed additional surgery. Following her recovery, she celebrated by having a partial face lift.
On the morning of December 26, Patsy Ramsey phoned her mother in Atlanta. Immediately, Pam, Polly, and Polly's husband flew to Boulder. After the discovery of the body, Patsy declared to her friends that "she would never go back in that house again." In the first days, the Ramseys and Paugh sisters moved into John and Barbara Fernie's place in south Boulder. Another friend, Patty Novack, who is a registered nurse, stayed nights with Patsy. "Patsy was completely devastated," says Novack. "She needed to be taken into the shower and assisted in the bathroom."
While Patsy wept, John paced. "The first night he was completely pacing," says Novack, "and I had to wake up his brother Jeff, because I needed to have him keep an eye on John. The first night, Patsy slept on a futon and John must have slept on the couch. They pretty much did not sleep."
On December 28, with their lawyers present, the Ramseys gave hair and blood samples and were fingerprinted. "She was a wreck," says one source. "As she was being fingerprinted, she became hysterical, saying, "Why are you doing this? Do you think I killed my baby?' "
In June, Patsy Ramsey, who was heavily medicated after her daughter's death, told friends that she could not remember anything, not the murder night , not the days after-nothing. Investigators began to worry about an" amnesia defense." Others recalled her emotionally charged remark during the Ramseys' May 1 press conference that "it won't be long before she sees JonBenet again.
On December 29, the family flew to Marietta Georgia, in a private jet, piloted by John Ramsey, for JonBenet's funeral. Among those who went there to comfort the Ramseys that first week were Fleet and Priscilla White. Soon, however, questions and doubts began to nag at the Whites.
Fleet White phoned the Paugh house and said he wanted to come by and speak with John. When the Whites arrived, they were led into the sunroom, where Ramsey, his brother Jeff, and Don Paugh were waiting. According to an insider, Ramsey sat down next to Priscilla and began to pat her arm as if to calm her down as her husband pelted him with questions: "Why do you need all these attorneys? Why aren't you cooperating with the police?" His distress mounting, he declared, "I don't understand what you are doing." Priscilla later told friends that she had told John that going on CNN was a big mistake.
Nedra would later tell police that White was "a wild man and a lunatic." Ramsey would inform friends that "the worm had turned." According to a D.A. source, Ramsey told his lawyers and the D.A. that he regarded Fleet White, whom he had often identified as his best friend, as a prime suspect in JonBenet's murder.
In the ensuing weeks, the Ramsey team spread the word that the Whites were not to be trusted. Pam Griffin was among those who carried the message. "This man has a dark side," she told me over the phone. Pressed to explain how Fleet White could have possibly killed JonBenet, she said, "I don't think Fleet White with his two hands murdered that child. I just think he knows something." (The Whites declined to comment for this story.)
The Whites were the first of what the police have come to call "the throwaway friends." Anyone suspected of the vaguest disloyalty to the Ramseys soon showed up on a list they gave to the police. "Ramsey panicked and started throwing all his friends under the bus," says radio host Peter Boyles, "beginning with his best friend." Jeff Merrick, Mike Glynn, and Jim Marino were all horrified to learn that Ramsey had placed them on the suspect list. All of them were questioned by detectives and asked to give blood and/or hair samples. Later they learned that Haddon's team had identified them to police as 'disgruntled former employees." Access employees were told that anyone who spoke with the press without permission would be fired.
'One of the detectives, Steve Thomas, told me to come in and asked me point blank if I killed her," says Merrick, still fuming. "I have no doubt that Ramsey tried to set me up. The specific question the police kept asking me was: Why does John Ramsey keep throwing your name out? They asked me to take a polygraph. I said, 'Sure. No problem. As soon as John Ramsey takes one.' " Early in 1996, Ramsey had decided he wanted to get rid of Merrick. Merrick was shifted to another job, which was soon eliminated. When Merrick confronted Ramsey, his friend of 25 years told him he was powerless to help him. Merrick filed a complaint with Lockheed Martin, which later prompted the Ramsey team to put him on their suspect list.
Jane Stobie was not surprised that Ramsey had gone from defending himself to accusing his friends. She was familiar with the strategy. "I knew those people were bad, bad news. We called it 'the evil empire'-for a reason."
Marino and Glynn had much softer landings; they were moved around the company to positions that either overtaxed them or made them unhappy enough to quit. Both of them, as well as Merrick went on to better, higher paid jobs. Glynn and Marino left on fairly good terms. Both immediately phoned Ramsey after the murder to offer their condolences. "He was my best friend for a lot of years," says Marino with difficulty." That's what hurt me the most. He indicated that Mike and Jeff were his enemies, and I can tell you they never were."
"I was contacted by the Boulder police about two weeks later-wanting to talk to me about where I was on the night of the murder," says Mike Glynn, who now lives in Tucson. "They said my name had been mentioned by Ramsey's attorney as someone they needed to check out. I was pretty dumbfounded." In February and March, Glynn says, his family was tormented by "three weeks of constant media bombardment." His neighbors were interviewed by TV crews; one even asked, according to Glynn, "Do you know the Ramsey family considers him to be a major suspect in the murder of their daughter?"
In April, after two visits from a private investigator named Jon Foster, who said he worked for the Ramseys, Glynn called a Boulder detective to find out why the P.I. was snooping around. He learned that virtually everyone the police had interviewed got a visit soon after by one of the Ramsey's personal sleuths. "I said, 'Why are they doing that?' and the police said, 'To obscure the truth.' Foster must have told me six times that John didn't give my name to the police." However detectives told Glynn that Ramsey had given his name almost immediately. "Foster explained that the Ramseys had formed a team' to try and solve this murder. You know, the police are a small-town operation. They don't know what their doing, but they're not willing to take any kind of help.' " Foster continued to pester Glynn, trying to learn what he had told the police. After 40 minutes, Glynn told him to leave. (Foster declined comment for this story.)
Judith Phillips, who last saw Patsy in March, says, "I was still a true-blue supporter of her." According to Phillips, Patsy asked her to contact Leslie Durgin, Boulder's mayor and a pal of Phillips's. Durgin, who describes Patsy as barely an acquaintance, was surprised at the message Phillips conveyed from her: Why aren't you protecting me?" Durgin tersely replied via Phillips, "We are doing everything we can. I am supporting the police."
Weeks later, Phillips says, she learned that she too had flunked the loyalty test. In April, one of Patsy's close friends phoned her to say that the Ramseys never wanted to see me again. I was not their friend."
Even Barbara Fernie, according to friends, began to have doubts. For months, she and Patsy had been inseparable-shopping, lunching, chatting on the phone. By early spring, Fernie began telling people, "I am the one grieving. Something is wrong with Patsy." Soon, friends say, Barbara was dropped from the Ramsey inner circle, though her husband John has continued his relationship with Ramsey, as have many other business associates.
One by one, many of the Ramseys' Boulder friends quietly slipped away. However, as more and more of these friends lost faith in them, the D.A.'s team seemed to work more and more closely with Haddon's team. They openly began to give credence to the "intruder theory" promoted by Haddon's office. Detectives would sit numbly as Hofstrom dismissed their carefully collected evidence and Lou Smit offered the theory that a grown man had sneaked through a broken window so narrow that even Hunter had discounted the possibility. "No one came through that window," he told me in June. But by July the Haddon team had convinced Hofstrom, DeMuth, and Smit that it WAS possible. "I have talked to Alex a great deal," Pamela Griffin told me, "and he has some people working on the case who have called me...and they do not think the Ramseys did it."
Pam Paugh told me in June, "The fact that the district attorney is working with John and Patsy's team is enough to tell the world that they are off the hook. If I thought you did it , and I was the police or the D.A., would I be working on a daily basis with your hired lawyers and investigators...telling you what I know? And them telling me what they know, so I could turn around and arrest you? No, because I could never convict you."
On July 11, Hofstrom told Tom Wickman that he had arranged a meeting with the Ramseys and their attorneys for the next day. The purpose of the meeting was to support the Ramseys' claim of innocence and seek their assistance in finding the killer. No one from the police was invited. A request to tape the meeting for the benefit of the police was denied. The following morning at seven A.M., John and Patsy Ramsey convened with four of their lawyers-Burke, Morgan, Foreman and Haddon. "Lou Smit and Hofstrom were there asking Patsy and John their thoughts on the "intruder,' " says an investigator. "It was a joke."
The next day John Ramsey went to church with John Fernie while Patsy flew to Atlanta. In mid-July, Nedra and Pam Paugh helped Patsy move into the new 700,000 brick colonial in the Vinings suburb of Atlanta, just across the road from the prestigious Lovett School, where Burke is said to be enrolled. On July15, Ramsey announced that his company's new international headquarters would be in Atlanta starting August 1.
The detectives however embittered and demoralized, did not give up. They decided to keep their contact with Hunter's team to a minimum, and their thoughts and evidence to themselves. Open bickering erupted between the two teams. Smit was reportedly accused of "contaminating the case file" by putting in reports that exonerated the Ramseys. "I'll write the reports as I see them," Smit allegedly shot back. Some of the police turned to therapists, some to clergy, others to lawyers. In late July, one high powered attorney assured them, "If the right thing isn't done, we'll do the right thing."
A week later, Tom Wickman was told that three experts-Robert Miller, a former U.S. attorney; Daniel Hoffman, a former dean of the University of Denver law school; and Richard Baer, a former New York prosecutor-wanted to talk to him. At a hastily arranged meeting with Chief Koby and Wickman and his team, these eminences grises, according to one insider, reviewed the evidence, voiced enthusiastic support for the beleaguered cops, and offered pro bono assistance. A hushed jubilation filled the room-until Koby announced that he would have to tell Hunter about the meeting. (The volunteer experts have declined to comment)
Hunter, according to the same source, was not pleased to learn that a handful of cops had ambushed him, but he was clearly impressed by the quality of their advisers. Days later he welcomed the new additions to his team, but he made it clear that he alone would make the decision to file charges.
It had been a bad week for Hunter. On July 25, Boulder police held a press conference and announced that they had the evidence to go forward in the prosecution of a 14 yr. old murder case. In 1983, Robert Redford's daughter's boyfriend, Sid Wells, was killed. The police thought they had a solid case, but Hunter's office refused to prosecute the alleged killer. Now, with Ramsey case hanging over him, Hunter was being ambushed again. In addition, he was confronted by another old case: the murder of Alec Olbright, who police suspected was killed by his baby-sitter three years ago. The parents had been devastated when the D.A.'s office declined to file charges. (Hunter's spokesperson says that under Colorado law any citizen can challenge the decision of the D.A. in a particular case by filing with a court a motion to compel prosecution. In neither of these cases was such a motion filed.) Other old cases, mainly in narcotics were also suddenly being resurrected by the police. The Boulder cops, taking a page from the Haddon legal team, had started to play hardball.
On July 23, the Ramsey team went on the offensive, blasting investigators for wasting their time on the Ramseys instead of focusing on the real killer. They released their profile of the suspected killer and asked the public's cooperation in turning up someone who, for example, may have started drinking more recently, or someone who had been going to church more since the murder. Most law-enforcement experts dismissed the profile as a desperate attempt to deflect attention. Some compared it to O.J. Simpson's 800 number. On July 28, Ramsey's profiler, John Douglas, a former FBI agent who took the job that Gregg McCrary turned down, went on NBC's Today and announced his belief that the case "may be one of the 35[percent] that will remain unsolved."
The Ramsey machine stepped up its campaign in late July and August, taking out full-page ads on it's intruder profile in the paper, circulating fliers, releasing sample letters from the ransom notes, and setting up it's own tip line phone number. On August 3, the Ramseys ran another full page intruder-profile as in Boulder's Daily Camera, but in the same edition was a full-page open letter to the Ramseys from Peter Boyles. The popular talk-radio host listed all the reasons Americans found the Ramsey's behavior suspicious, mocked their profile as "laughable," condemned them for not cooperating with the police, and accused them of taking "Colorado and the nation on a seven month, low-speed, white Bronco chase." Real grieving parents, he said, behave like Fred Goldman, not like the Ramseys.
In late July, Hunter agreed to go with Hofstrom to F.B.I. headquarters in Quantico, Virginia, to meet with the Child Abduction and Serial Killer Unit in early September. For months, says a source, the police had implored Hofstrom to listen to the conclusions of the F.B.I., but to no avail. "They're going to take DeMuth, Hofstrom, and Smit out of their little kingdom, where they're so comfortable, take them to Quantico, and let those guys beat them over the head for two days and say, 'Look, this is how you prosecute this case,' "
The lack of an indictment, after eight months, has fueled an incendiary rumor mill which attributes the stalemate to everything from conspiracy theories to bribes and promises of political and judicial appointments. Some observers discount any sinister motivation and say simply that the playing field was never even. Columnist Chuck Green speculates, "I'm sure Haddon had told Hunter that if you file against my clients I'll come after you for malicious prosecution." One elected official in Boulder explains, "This is a small, incestuous legal community. We've never built fire walls, and this case really needed one at the very beginning." Owing to the early police incompetence, the indiscretions of the district attorney's office, and a sketchy coroner's report , many experts question whether any prosecution of the case stands a chance.
"Whether we prosecute or not," Hunter told me in June, "there is no statute of limitations on murder...it's a very big Sword of Damocles hanging over their heads."
Ann Louise Bardach