Discovery News

transcript by listener on 3/18/2000

Narrator Lyn Cannon
Guest Forensic pathologist Dr. Werner Spitz

From handwriting analysis to the autopsy, the lastest twist in what the evidence may reveal about this gruesome crime.

Six year old JonBenet Ramsey is back in the news this week. The girl's parents, John and Patsy Ramsey, are out with a new book that proclaimed their innocence, and offers a psychological profile about who they think killed their daughter. The case has stumped authorities for 3 yrs. One of the most basic questions that has gone unanswered,--- what weapons were used in the murder?


LC: From the day the body was found, investigators knew that Jon Benet Ramsey, suffered a severe blow to the head, as well as strangulatiion with a cord. But which came first? Determining that could tell a great deal about the motive and the killer. Investigators speculate strangulation first could mean a sex crime. If the blow came first, it might point to a kidnapper or a crime of rage. Dr.Warner Spitz has conducted more than 50,000 autopsies. In 1997, he was consulted by the Boulder police investigating the murder. He says he reviewed more than 100 autopsy photos which have never been released to the public.

You believe JBR was hit on the head first, and then strangled.

Dr. WS: Yes.

LC: But in reports published this week, a former detective, who also worked on the case, claimed the head wound did not bleed enough to be the first injury, but Spitz says, he can prove his case, and it's believed the Boulder police agree.

Dr.WS: Because there was hemmoraging in the brain.

LC: There was hemmoraging in the brain?

Dr.WS: There was hemmoraging in the scalp, in the skin,in other words,

LC: Spitz says those hemmorages would not have formed if JB was already dead of strangulation when she suffered the head injury.

Dr.WS: She did have a circulation....she did have blood clots, she did have heart beat, she did breathe, for awhile, after the head injury.

LC:Let me say that the noose, made of cord similar to this, was not tied around her neck after death. He believes that she was dying of the head injury while she was strangled. His evidence,...a tell tale pattern of hemmoraging on the internal surface of her eye lids. Petechial or penpoint hemmorages.

Dr.WS: When strangulation occurs, there is a point where the blood vessels to the neck get obstructed. The blood still flows into the head, but it doesn't flow out.

LC: That's because veins, which have lower blood pressure, are shut off first. Arteries, with higher blood pressure, keep flowing longer.

Dr.WS: ........?..there is increased pressure above the knees, and tiny little blood vessels in the eyes and around the eyes, may break.

LC: Jon Benet eyes did show this pattern of hemmoraging, indicating, Spitz says, that her heart was still beating when the noose was applied. And there's always then another question: was Jon Benet sexually assaulted, and when? Experts disagree, but Spitz's review tells him that Jon Benet had no history of sexual abuse. But a splinter found during the autopsy tells him she was sexually assaulted at the time of her death, perhaps with the artist's paintbrush tied to the cord around her neck.

Dr.WS: I believe that this..?.pressure occurred at the time that she died, or just before, or during.

LC: But Spitz thinks the sexual assault was an attempt to disguise the crime scene, to make it look like a sex crime.

Dr.WS: I believe that the injury to the head was first, knocked her out. I think everything else here was staging.

LC: Spitz maintains the blow to the head was the central element of the murder, and he carefully studied JB's fatal scull fracture.

Dr.WS: ...? it was perfectly rectangular. That piece of bone that was knocked out, remained attached on a hinge,and was bendable.

LC: The size and shape of the fracture was so distinctive, Spitz decided to conduct his own tests, reenacting the injury.

Dr.WS: You could do it on syrofoam, you could do it on cardboard, you could do it on bone. I did it on all three.

LC: Published reports this week, speculate a baseball bat, found outside the house, might be the murder weapon. Spitz's tests lead him to a weapon inside the house.

Dr.WS: I would certainly believe that the flashlight is the instrument of death.

LC: What makes you so sure that it's compatible. How do you know?

Dr.WS: Because it fits right into the ....?.. It doesn't fit into the defect where it leaves some area to play with. It fits perfectly.

LC: Not any flashlight, but a specific type police reportedly found in the Ramsey home.

Dr.WS: The flashlight was raised above the head of the perpetrater and,a hand down,...with this portion , this wide, breaking the bone.

LC: So who did it? Here...forensic pathology comes up short. The autopsy tells Spitz only what was done, not by whom.

LC: There are other pieces of physical evidence from the JBR crime scene, fiber, DNA, that famous ransom note. Where that trail of physical evidence leads in a moment.


LC: In the JBR case, even experienced investigaters disagree on what the forensic evidence means. This week, a retired detective who consulted on the case, argued that an intruder committed the murder. Other investigaters watch the parents. With no eye witnesses, finding the true killer hinges on the physical evidence. Much of the forensic testing of the case was done in the labs of the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, just west of Denver. Technicians here used sophistocated document analysis; microscopic hair and fiber comparisons; DNA testing; each, has it's place in the Ramsey case which began with a concrete and tantilizing clue, a ransom note.

John D?: It's a viable connection between someone involved with the crime, and the crime itself.

LC: When Patsy Ramsey first called police on Dec. 26th 1996, she reportedly mentioned the ransom note she found on the stairs. Was it from a would be kidnapper, or a killer trying to disguise the nature of the crime? Forensic document analysis involves a lot of science, and a little art. First, technicians can identify the type of ink used with what's called a video spectral comparitor, under light invisible to the naked eye.

lady ?: For example, that a Parker pen under what is called an infrared luminescence will stay dark. However, the Penpal pen will luminous.

LC: In the Ramsey case, it's believed technicians were able to match the ink of the ransom note, to a pen from the Ramsey home. Who wrote the note? Document examiners look for a variety of characteristics.

Paige Doherty:..?.. would include, has features as the high relationship of letter; the formatting of the writing on the paper; proportions of letters; spacing between words and letters; the actual formations with the letters themselves.

LC: If enough characteristics match, the writer can be identified, but in this case, that never happened. Why?

John Osborne?: The writing is written in what appears to be a somewhat grotesque and laborious fashion.

LC: Because the Ramsey case is still open, investigators could not discuss the note, but we talked with John Osborne, an expert document examiner in New York.

JO: What can be said is that , at the beginning of the note, particularly the first page, contains evidence which suggests that it was disguised.

LC: At the beginning of the note, the letters betray a tremor in the hand of the writer, leading some experts to speculate the author was intentionally writing with the wrong hand. We showed Osborne printing samples from Patsy Ramsey, who some investigators believe may be the writer. He says there are many differences. For examples: her *u(s)* don't match the u(s) in the ransom note.

JO: The final finishing downward stroke on the right hand side of the u , such as in the word Boulder, as compared with the examples of the letter u from the ransom note which are completed in just simply an upward direction, without that finishing downward stroke.

LC: And he says, it's the type of detail even someone bent on disguising his or her handwriting, might not think of. It's one of several differences, he said, preclude him from identifyig Patsy Ramsey as the writer. In fact, document experts have been unable to positively identify anyone as the writer, which means a huge piece of evidence is of limited value for now.

JO: There may be a point at which the ransom note becomes very, very important, if another suspect or ..? is developed.

LC: Until then investigators ponder other evidence from the crime scene like hairs, and fibers. Microscopic analysis can reveal whether a fiber is natural or synthetic, because of differences in texture, and the way it absorbs dye. Technicians compare a fiber from the crime scene, one that's been linked to a suspect, using a comparison microscope.

Yavonne Woods?: ....?...microscope, can provide an occular?; bridge; so when you look through a set of binoculars, you can constitute 1/2 of the field of view so, when examing the fibers, using an actual side by side comparison.

LC: In the Ramsey case, it's been reported that the fibers found on the duct tape that covered JB's mouth, are consistant with fibers from her mother's clothing, but when John Ramsey found his daughter's body in a basement room., according to police documents, he said, he removed the tape from Jon Benet's mouth. In the process, he could have unwittingly contaminated the tape with fibers from Patsy's clothing. Again, what had first seemed like decisive evidence may be of little use. As for DNA testing, Osborne considered the most precise forensic science. In the Ramsey case, it only creates more mystery. It has been widely recorded that foreign DNA was found in JB's underwear. News reports published this week, say it was a man. But so far, tests have not matched any member of the Ramsey family, or anyone else police investigated. Another frustrating example, that how in this case, the promise of forensic evidence may not always deliver easy answers.