Dateline October 12, 1999
You could argue that Boulder changed forever on the day after Christmas, 1996, when the world first learned the name, JonBenet Ramsey.

In the shadow of majestic mountains lies a town that has long prided itself on being a little different, a little better. Educated and affluent, the citizens of Boulder, Colorado, live at a slight remove from the turmoil, pressure, and crime of a more typical American city. That is, they used to. You could argue that Boulder changed forever on the day after Christmas, 1996, when the world first learned the name, JonBenet Ramsey.

Author and filmmaker Lawrence Schiller has covered sensational criminal cases for more than 30 years. He’s now a consultant for NBC News. His work ranges from highly respected to controversial. His attraction to the JonBenet murder case was probably inevitable. For the last year and a half he’s been encamped in Colorado, living just outside of Boulder, interviewing hundreds of people — some at the very heart of the investigation — reviewing police documents no other journalist has seen. His forthcoming book is called, “Perfect Murder, Perfect Town.”

Jane Pauley: “What case do you make to someone who probably could get in trouble if it was revealed he was cooperating with you?”

Lawrence Schiller: “I said look, there is a reason to preserve history. Otherwise this will just disintegrate and everything will be speculation and rumor.”

It’s been two years of speculation and rumor, and it all started with a phone call at 5:52 a.m. — a mother who said she’d found a note — her daughter was kidnapped. Police arrived at 5:59. They met John Ramsey, a millionaire computer entrepreneur, his wife, Patsy, a former beauty queen. Their son, Burke, then 9 years old, was still asleep.

Operating on the mistaken assumption that there had been a kidnapping, the patrol officer went to work.

Schiller: “He immediately does a search throughout the house, but looking for forced entry, because the ransom note at face value looks like the child has been taken from the house.”

Some outside experts say the note should never have been taken at face value. It was too long — three pages - too complex, too respectful, and it demanded an odd — and relatively small ransom — $118,000 for the daughter of millionaires.

But major crimes are rare in Boulder. Schiller says that day after Christmas, police could not even find their copy of an FBI manual on how to handle a kidnapping. As they hunted for it, the Boulder patrolman could rely only on his wits.

Schiller: “He goes into the basement, and in the basement he actually goes very close to the wine cellar door but he sees it latched from the inside, and since he’s looking for forced entry it’s more than likely that he didn’t think that he needed to go in there.” Schiller writes that decision not to open that door would “torture” the officer for months to come.

Someone else did open the door.

Schiller: “Within 30 minutes Mr. Fleet White arrives.”

White was a family friend — one of several the Ramseys called that morning. Pauley: “Within minutes not only were the police called, and frankly I think I would have done that as a parent ...”

Schiller: “Sure. But the…”

Pauley: “Friends were called.”

Schiller: “Right.”

Pauley: “The minister was called.”

Schiller: “Right.”

Pauley: “A lot of phone calls were made in spite of a clear written threat — ”

Schiller: “Right.”

Pauley: “— We will behead your daughter.”

Schiller: “Right.”

Did that seem suspicious to police? Maybe not since their own cruisers were sitting out front in the driveway. And soon the house was swarming with people. And now, at 6:30 a.m., Fleet White was on his way to the basement.

Schiller: “And he starts calling JonBenet’s name, ‘JonBenet, JonBenet.’”

Did he think she was still in the house? That might explain why he didn’t seem to attach much significance to a broken basement window, though he later told police he noticed it. Then he moved toward the room the Ramseys called “the wine cellar.”


Perfect Murder, Perfect Town by Lawrence Schiller
Other books by Lawrence Schiller

Schiller: “When he gets to the wine cellar door, he opens the latch and opens the door, stands on the threshold looking in. He can’t find the light switch. His own body blocks the light from entering the room, so he looks into darkness and he doesn’t see anything and he quickly leaves.”

At 8:10 a.m., more than two hours after the 911 call, the first detectives arrived. Detective Linda Arndt found a crowded house: the Ramseys, four friends, the family minister, and two victim’s advocates employed by the Boulder police.

Schiller says another detective wanted to clear the house and declare it a crime scene. But that was not done.

Schiller: “I think they looked upon these people as being important people in the community, less likely to have committed this crime. The police were not strong enough to say, ‘hey, you’re destroying evidence, you can’t be running around trying to make your own sense of this.’”

Pauley: “The ransom note indicated the call would come at what time?”

Schiller: “Between 8 and 10 o’clock in the morning.”

Detectives ordered a tap on the Ramsey’s phone, to trace any incoming call. But while they waited they also lost track of a key player.

Schiller: “And what happens at 10 o’clock — John Ramsey disappears for like a half hour, 45 minutes.”

Pauley: “How do you know he disappears?”

Schiller: “Well, because number one, he starts wandering around the house, and the next thing Linda Arndt sees is him coming back with the mail.”

Schiller: “You know, this is why Linda Arndt was calling, paging headquarters all the time, ‘I need detective backup. I need detective backup.’”

It later leaked to the media — erroneously — that John Ramsey had left the house to get the mail.

A timeline of the JonBenet Ramsey investigation

It would be months before police learned where he really went that morning — you will learn it for the first time later in this report.

It was 10:30 that morning — four and a half hours after the 911 call — before JonBenet’s bedroom was finally sealed. But the rest of the house was still not secured. And then Detective Arndt’s partner — and the patrol officers — all left.

Schiller: “She was alone for two hours and 20 some odd minutes. One police officer, one detective in that house with seven or eight other people. It was impossible for her to control the movements of all of them while she’s waiting for a call from the kidnapper.”

Schiller says Detective Arndt also noted a change in John Ramsey’s mood after his unexplained absence.

Schiller: “He’s sitting more alone. He’s not mixing as much. He becomes more despondent; he doesn’t communicate as much. And Linda Arndt, by 12:45, believes he needs to become active.”

Detective Arndt makes a fateful decision — to send John Ramsey and two family friends to comb the house again to see if they can find anything out of place. Ramsey and White go directly to the basement. Schiller’s account of the next few crucial moments is based on police accounts of their interviews with White and Ramsey.

Schiller: “They go into the basement, Fleet White, John Ramsey; they go into the train room, they talk about the broken window. They go into the boiler room. They open the door to the wine cellar, and Fleet White standing behind John Ramsey sees John Ramsey enter the room, and as he turns on the light switch, he screams, ‘Oh my God! Oh my God!’ something to that effect. He has seen his daughter.

He rushes to the body, Fleet White follows him into the room — John Ramsey’s kneeling over the body. The tape is already off his daughter’s mouth. Fleet White touches the child’s foot, he knows the child’s body is dead cold. John Ramsey picks his daughter up by the waist, like a plank of wood, holding her out in front of him, runs out of the room, up the stairs, Fleet White following him up the stairs saying, ‘Get an ambulance! Get an ambulance!’ something to that effect.

And he places his daughter down on the floor just in front, in the front hallway.”

The time was 1:05 p.m. This was no longer a kidnapping — it was a murder. And if that odd ransom note, or John Ramsey’s disappearance, or his demeanor, had not yet made officers suspicious, according to Schiller, they were stunned by what he says John Ramsey did next.

It has never before been revealed. At 1:30 p.m., less than a half hour after John Ramsey found his daughter’s body:

Schiller: “John Ramsey made a phone call to his pilot and asked for his plane to be made ready. He wanted to take his entire family back to Atlanta. While his daughter’s body is still laying in the house.”

Police suspicions about the Ramseys quickly hardened, and soon battle lines were drawn — not only between the Ramseys and the investigators, but among the investigators themselves.

On day one of the JonBenet Ramsey murder investigation, Boulder police had questions for her parents, yet they never separated them, and didn’t question them formally. And as author Schiller looked into the investigation, he discovered deep divisions among the investigators themselves. They started off in virtual agreement, and ended up with what may be irreconcilable differences.

To this day, John and Patsy Ramsey staunchly maintain their innocence. But Schiller also believes that from the very start, investigators thought they were probably guilty. In fact, the first 24 hours after the murder, the evidence seemed to be piling up against them. Investigators also know that in child murders, parents bear the presumption of guilt.

“Statistics say that at first you look at the people inside the house,” says Schiller.

According to federal crime statistics, when a child is murdered, more than 90 percent of the time, a parent or caregiver did it. But more than just statistics pointed to John and Patsy Ramsey.

Making plans to get out of town sounded suspicious; a detective confronted John Ramsey. Schiller claims to have a source that overheard the conversation. Schiller: “Ramsey said, ‘I have business, you know, to do. I have something I have to do in Atlanta.’

Which wasn’t even true because at that time police already knew that they were going to Michigan for a vacation.”

Four months later, during a formal police interview, Schiller’s sources say, “John Ramsey would explain it this way: He wanted to leave town that day because after JonBenet’s murder, he feared for the rest of his family; wanted to get them out of Boulder.”

But as that first day unfolded, police had good reason to suspect John and Patsy Ramsey. For example, police soon found out that odd ransom demand, $118,000, was almost the exact amount of John Ramsey’s Christmas bonus as president of a billion-dollar computer company — a number known to very few people.

And why were there no traces of forced entry into the house that would point away from the family and toward an intruder? There was a broken window in the basement, but John Ramsey told his friend Fleet White he’d broken it — to get in one night when he’d forgotten his keys. But police noticed the grate that covered the window on the outside of the house was itself covered by a spider web and the web was intact.

Also within 24 hours of discovering the body, the autopsy produced more clues that seemed not to point to a would-be kidnapper and so intensified the focus on the Ramseys. Like the skull fracture — JonBenet had been struck on the head very hard — she had an eight and a half-inch skull fracture.

Jane Pauley: “Do the police have any estimate for how long JonBenet would have been alive after that blow to the head?”

Lawrence Schiller: “Various pathologists have looked at the coroner’s reports, believe the child was alive 10 to 40 minutes. She may have slipped into unconsciousness in 30 seconds to 3 minutes.”

If a would-be kidnapper delivered that blow, why not just run away? Yet the killer took time to strangle JonBenet as well — with a noose pulled tight with a stick. And the coroner found injuries to her vagina and dried fluid on her upper thigh that police guessed might be semen. That led them to think this was a murder to cover sexual abuse — not kidnapping for ransom.

And the Ramsey’s recollection of the night before was already contradicted by the autopsy: undigested pineapple in JonBenet’s intestine, eaten no more than two hours before she died. Police knew pineapple had not been served at the White’s house, where the Ramseys ate dinner that night.

Schiller also learned police had found a bowl of pineapple in the Ramseys’ kitchen the day the body was discovered. When did she eat it? The parents claim they put a sleeping JonBenet straight to bed that night.

Did she get up without their knowledge? Did an intruder give it to her? Or were they hiding something?

And the blanket — John Ramsey said her body was covered with a blanket, from her own bed. Law officers say that is not something a stranger would do.

Schiller: “One of the most important things one of the victim advocates later told the police is that sometime that afternoon Ramsey made the comment himself that the person who killed his daughter must have cared for her because she was wrapped in a blanket that she slept in.”

And those 45 minutes the detective lost track of John Ramsey that morning — before the body was found — police, didn’t know that day where he went.

But according to Schiller, they did know that minutes after finding his daughter’s body, John Ramsey tried to arrange that flight out of town.

Pauley: “The policeman who overhears that call is speculating. And he’s thinking, ‘this is strange.’”

Schiller: “Right. And the second officer thinks it’s even stranger. Because they’re looking at demeanor. They’re looking at motivation.”

But the police had not yet had a formal talk with the parents that first day — or the second. In frustration, the police commander was ready to play hardball with the Ramseys — almost to the point of extortion.

Schiller: “He wanted to use the body of JonBenet and ransom it for an interview. ‘I’ll give you your daughter’s body to bury her if you give me the interviews.’ Well, I don’t have to tell you how that changed everything. I mean this was now war.”

The commander was overruled. But perhaps as a result of his tactics, instead of talking to the police now, the Ramseys hire top-flight criminal attorneys. It’s at this point that the investigation begins to develop a split personality.

Schiller writes, that with the knowledge of the district attorney’s office, a police detective sent the Ramseys’ new lawyers a remarkable fax — never reported until now. Schiller: “What they’re really doing is saying to the attorneys representing the Ramseys, help your clients answer the questions.”

Pauley: “If it’s not too much trouble at your convenience.”

Schiller: “Right, and these are crucial questions. ‘What time did each of you go to bed?’ ‘What was the last thing your daughter ate?’ ‘Where was the ransom note found?’”

Many of these questions could potentially tip the Ramseys and their lawyers to key evidence they may not otherwise have known about and were not legally entitled to know unless they were formally charged with murder.

Threatening to withhold the body on one hand — sharing the evidence on the other. Schiller says it’s just one example of a deep schism between the Boulder police and the Boulder district attorney, Alex Hunter, that has plagued the investigation from the start.

Schiller: “The police may have been right. You know, throw the people in jail the first week and maybe they’ll roll over — if the family did it. The D.A. doesn’t operate that way.”

The inter-departmental antagonism went to bizarre lengths. At one point police withheld DNA evidence from the prosecutors — fearing they’d leak it to the media (or maybe to the Ramsey’s lawyers.) And sometimes, police used pay phones so the D.A.’s investigators wouldn’t overhear their calls.

Pauley: “It reaches a level of paranoia when there is a computer glitch and the police have members of the D.A.’s office fingerprinted?”

Schiller: “It went beyond that.”

In June of 1997, police accused the D.A.’s staff of stealing what were supposed to be shared computer files.

Schiller: “Eventually they found it was a malfunction of the computer.”

In other words, no break-in, but evidence of a serious breakdown in relations between police and the D.A. Schiller reports that each side used the media against the other. In one episode, District Attorney Hunter told a local newspaper reporter and a tabloid researcher the same false but damaging story about the police commander. In retaliation, police wore a wire, a hidden microphone, to get the researcher to confirm the leak.

“They got this person to talk about dealing with the D.A. then they took the tape to the police chief to get the D.A. kicked out of the case,” Schiller says. “And do you know what the police chief did?

He said, ‘you don’t run two investigations, one on JonBenet and one on the D.A.’s office. Your job is to find the killer of this child.’”

In the middle of the biggest murder case any of them had ever seen, the investigators were investigating each other.

“All the people whose job it is to bring justice are battling with each other,” Schiller says. “How could JonBenet’s killer be found?”

The Boulder police department declined to comment except to say the relationship with the district attorney’s office has been professional. Attorneys for the Ramseys also had no comment, but sent information challenging Schiller’s story that John Ramsey had tried to arrange a flight out of Boulder the day the body of his daughter was found. “Dateline” did some further checking, however, which confirmed Schiller’s account. Next we’ll look at some surprising new evidence in the case.

If so much time and energy was spent discrediting each other, were investigators looking for the killer? Yes, Schiller says. And now, for the first time, you’ll see how police put it all together, and judge for yourself whether they came up short.

After two years, investigators still can’t make all the pieces of the puzzle fit, says Schiller. There is still no completely coherent answer to the question — who killed JonBenet?

“Even when the police made their presentation to the D.A.’s office,” Schiller says, “they did not present a scenario. They said, ‘this is a possible scenario. This is another.’ They themselves could not figure out one that answered all the questions.”

But according to Schiller’s confidential sources, each of their scenarios centered on only two suspects: John and Patsy Ramsey.

Schiller’s book presents a detailed account of the presentation police made last June, in which the police argued their case as if putting on a trial, albeit with no jury. It was the district attorney they were trying to persuade.

Tonight, for the first time, you’ll hear what they consider the key evidence. Starting with the note: Jane Pauley: “It was definitely written in the house?”

Lawrence Schiller: “It seems to be because it came from a pad that was found in an alcove in the kitchen right next to a cup where there were many, I think, Sharpie pens, and a Sharpie pen was used here.”

And who wrote it? Police said after all the writing samples they analyzed, the only one the handwriting experts could not eliminate was Patsy Ramsey.

The ransom note begins: “Mr. Ramsey!” On a different page of the same pad the note was written on, investigators found an imprint of writing — similar, yet different.

Jane Pauley: “What police suspect is a practice page that began, ‘Mr. and Mrs. Ramsey’ — is the handwriting the same as the handwriting in the ransom note?”

Lawrence Schiller: “It seems to be the same, but is written more in script, where the ransom note itself is written in more block letters.”

Pauley: “So someone, if it is a practice note, is deciding, ‘I will change the style’?”

Schiller: “Right.”

Pauley: “Because it’s more clear that ‘Mr. and Mrs. Ramsey’ is in Patsy’s handwriting than the ransom note would appear to be?”

Schiller: “I can’t say because I haven’t seen the reports from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.”

Also — what is the explanation for references that seem to lead back to the Ramseys — like a line about John Ramsey’s “good Southern common sense” (he was from Michigan). Schiller learned that that was a family joke. And there’s more circumstantial evidence that police say points to someone in the family.

“The strongest indication that it may have been a family member is that the events after the blow to the head took so much time,” Schiller says. “The killer had no fear of discovery.”

Police put the time of JonBenet’s death at about midnight, because that’s when a neighbor heard a scream.

“If the scream was the child’s scream,” Schiller says, “how did the killer know that the parents wouldn’t descend the staircase quickly from their bedroom and look for their child?”

Yet the killer took time to fashion a noose with cord and a broken paintbrush from Patsy Ramsey’s art supplies, tuck the body under a blanket and compose a long, phony ransom note.

Jane Pauley: “How much time did it take, and the minimum?”

Lawrence Schiller: “If the thoughts were all very well planned-out in the person’s mind, maybe 15 minutes to write it. If the thoughts came step by step as it was written, maybe 40 minutes.”

The argument goes that only a person who already lived in the house would take the time to do all that. And that there was no evidence of forced entry. And further, only someone familiar with the house could negotiate its convoluted floor-plan.

Jane Pauley: “It’s been likened to a maze.”

Lawrence Schiller: “Well, it really is a maze, unless you know it.”

We’re able to guide you through the maze thanks to one of Schiller’s sources.

Jane Pauley: “I’ve never seen blueprints of this house. Where did you get them?”

Lawrence Schiller: “One day somebody showed up on my doorstep and gave me the official blueprints of the Ramsey house as done by law enforcement.”

The blueprint shows that the Ramsey home was a quirky 20-room mansion, 6,800 square feet, laid out in an unpredictable fashion, with spiral staircases connecting three floors and a basement that was a warren of little rooms.

Lawrence Schiller: “If a stranger wants to go down into the basement and you open this door, well, where do you think the light switch would be? Over here to the left, maybe directly to the right, maybe just outside.”

Jane Pauley: “Mm-hmm.”

Schiller: “But no, the light switch is counter-intuitive. It’s back on this wall.” Pauley: “Behind you?”

Schiller: “Behind you.”

JonBenet’s body was found far from her second-story bedroom, down the spiral stairs and basement stairs, in a remote storeroom the family called “the wine cellar.” And police can also show that virtually all the items used in the crime — the pad, the pen, the broken paintbrush — came from the house. There were two exceptions: John Ramsey says he found tape on JonBenet’s mouth. The autopsy showed she was strangled with a cord. Police never found a roll of tape or a coil of cord in the home. But...

“There’s a very strong indication that Patsy Ramsey may have purchased those items from a local hardware store,” Schiller says.

Acting on a tip, police found that just two weeks before the murder, Patsy Ramsey’s credit card was used at a local hardware store. The store’s records show that the items purchased could have included a type of cord that may have been used in the crime, and the type of tape the FBI says was used.

And four months after the murder, when police finally got separate, formal interviews with the Ramseys, Schiller says John Ramsey told them where he’d gone during those 30 to 40 unaccounted for minutes.

“John Ramsey went down into the basement at 10 o’clock,” Schiller says. “We know that because he said it himself.”

What did he do down there? Schiller says he told police he’d found an open window and closed it, but apparently never mentioned it to the detective upstairs. And according to Schiller, some police speculate he did something else, maybe concealed evidence or even moved the body. Police say the inconsistencies add up, large and small — even the date on JonBenet’s headstone, which indicates she died the day before her body was found — and all point to the Ramseys’ guilt.

The district attorney’s team heard all the evidence, but, according to Schiller’s sources, where the police saw conclusive proof, the DA saw plenty of room for reasonable doubt.

Here’s why: first, the note. Because they believe the handwriting was deliberately disguised, experts can’t say for sure who wrote it. And all those references that lead back to the Ramseys? Schiller says one DA’s investigator argued if the Ramseys really wrote the note, those references shouldn’t be there.

“One of the detectives who worked on the case, very experienced detective, said it was written by an intruder who brilliantly thought of a scenario — make the ransom note look like the parents wrote it, but they were trying to blame somebody else,” Schiller says. And what about the argument that an intruder wouldn’t have taken the time, after murdering JonBenet, to write the note?

Jane Pauley: “We don’t know if the ransom note was written before the murder takes place.”

Schiller: “Right.”

Pauley: “Or after JonBenet was dead.”

Schiller: “Right.”

Pauley. “Do we?”

Schiller: “No. If it was an intruder that came into that house it was probably written before. The intruder may have been there 4 -5 o’clock in the afternoon when the family left.”

Remember, the Ramseys had gone out to dinner on Christmas. The family dog was at a neighbor’s house. An intruder could have been hiding in the house for hours before they got back, and would have had time to learn the layout — or may not have been a stranger at all. But how would he have gotten in? That intact spider web seems to prove no one came through the broken basement window. Except it doesn’t. Schiller reports that, to their surprise, detectives learned that during warm winter days spiders can come out of hibernation, and that there was enough time to weave a new web and cover up a forced entry.

Jane Pauley: “Is that a case of a spider could have or the spider would have?

Lawrence Schiller: “Could have, not would have, but could have, and that’s why it’s a mystery.”

An easier explanation might be the keys: a number of acquaintances had them and not all the keys have been accounted for. And remember the cord and the tape? And Patsy Ramsey’s credit card records? Police still can’t prove she bought cord or tape, because the hardware store does not fully itemize receipts. And in April of ’97 Patsy told investigators she did not remember buying them and had no use for them.

Jane Pauley: “If it’s a crime to buy rope and duct tape, I’m guilty. Obviously just because she may have—”

Schiller: “Right—”

Pauley: “Purchased it doesn’t mean—”

Schiller: “Right—”

Pauley: “She killed her daughter.”

Schiller: “The question is, what happened to it if she purchased it?” But if an intruder brought in a roll of tape and a coil of cord, maybe the intruder took them out again.

But, “why were they taken out and everything else left?” Schiller asks. Questions unanswered.

To the district attorney, unanswered questions add up to reasonable doubt. And in their presentation to the DA, police had to admit there are still many questions unanswered: like, what was the murder weapon? It could have been a flashlight like the one police found on a kitchen counter when they searched the home. There were no fingerprints on it, not even on the batteries.

Maybe it was a golf club, like those stored near where the body was found. But there’s no conclusive forensic evidence that links either flashlight or golf club to the murder.

Another unanswered question: where was JonBenet killed? In her bedroom? In the basement? There is no trail of blood. The Christmas garland the coroner found in her hair might suggest she was carried down the stairs, unconscious. Except her parents have already said they carried her up the stairs, asleep. And what about an unidentified palm print found on the door of the wine cellar and a shoe imprint found next to the body which clearly reads: “hitek.” It gives no clue however (unlike the O.J. Simpson case) of what size shoe — or whether it was a man or a woman. Or, for that matter, if both palm and shoe print had been there for months. Or were they left by some unidentified intruder?

The same goes for a pubic hair found on the blanket JonBenet was wrapped in. If it was a family member, it proves nothing: they lived in the same house and laundry co-mingles. But it wasn’t.

“They eventually find out it’s not the father’s pubic hair,” Schiller says. “It’s not the mother’s pubic hair. It’s not the step daughter’s. It’s not the step brother’s. Where did the pubic hair come from?”

While police have not ruled out sexual assault, there was no semen found on JonBenet’s body and no evidence of previous sexual assault. But Schiller says some police thought a flash of anger Patsy Ramsey showed under interrogation meant she was capable of violence. But they found no evidence of physical abuse. And though 6-year-old JonBenet was a bedwetter, there is no pattern of excessive discipline.

In short, police have found no apparent motive for the Ramseys to have killed their daughter.

And no apparent motive for anyone else to have done so, either. And yet a final unanswered question is who is the source of the DNA found under JonBenet’s fingernails and on her underwear: a mixture of blood and saliva, some of it her own. Schiller’s sources say the DNA “evidence” to date — like so much about this case — is ambiguous.

Jane Pauley: “It’s like you had a hundred different facts in a party game.”

Lawrence Schiller: “Right.”

Pauley: “And you divvy up the facts and each individual can take the same set of facts and draw up a creative scenario. Any one of them could be—”

Schiller: “Right—”

Pauley: “Fairly plausible, except that there isn’t one scenario that fits all the facts.”

Schiller: “That’s correct. There’s always another piece of the puzzle left on the table.”

After more than two years of investigating and infighting and relentless media coverage, will this jewel of a town, in this perfect setting, live forever with an unsolved murder? Even after a year and a half of research and writing, Lawrence Schiller doesn’t claim to know.

“Everybody agrees that it was not a sophisticated killer who committed this crime,” Schiller says. “So by doing things wrong, they fashioned the perfect murder because all the wrong things are so confusing that it comes together and it’s very difficult to find out.

This was a perfect murder by accident, not by design.”

The D.A.’s office declined to comment on any aspect of the case, saying it is still before the grand jury. In fact, though in Colorado it’s very rare in a criminal case, a grand jury has been hearing evidence in secret since September and could finish in the next few weeks.