Piles of Evidence Lead in Many Directions
NEW YORK – The Boulder grand jury has been operating under strict secrecy since September 1998, interviewing experts and friends and associates of the Ramsey family. What new information its investigation has uncovered remains undisclosed. Nonetheless, certain key components of the case are known, and some surprising new details have recently been revealed.
The Intruder Theory
John and Patsy Ramsey, who police have said are "under an umbrella of suspicion" in the case, vehemently deny having anything to do with the death of their daughter. They say an intruder must be responsible.
But notwithstanding a broken basement window with a blue suitcase propped below it and a pry mark on a kitchen door, police said they found no signs of a forced entry into the Ramsey home. Patrol Sgt. Paul Reichenbach "saw no fresh footprints in any of the snow or in the frost on the grass (and) visually examined the exterior doors and windows of the residence and found no signs of forced entry," according to a police search warrant affidavit filed in March 1997.
There is, of course, the possibility that someone entered the house without force through an open window or door — six ground floor windows and a kitchen door were reportedly left unlocked.
However, the Ramsey home is spacious and has an intricate layout, leading police to state that "investigation has revealed that the perpetrators would had to have had personal knowledge concerning the Ramsey home and of the family's schedule and living arrangements."
Evidence supporting the existence of a stranger in the home comes in the form of an unmatched shoe print bearing the imprint of the "Hi-Tec" footwear brand and an unidentified palmprint on the door to the cellar room where the body was found.
The Ransom Letter
Perhaps the most crucial piece of evidence — the ransom letter — was found, according to JonBenet's mother, on the bottom step of a spiral staircase next to the kitchen, a stairway she used every morning.
The two-and-a-half page handwritten note began "Mr. Ramsey, Listen Carefully! We are a group of individuals that represent a small foreign faction." It goes on to demand $118,000 in return for JonBenet and threatens that failure to comply will result in her "being beheaded."
Colorado Bureau of Investigation agent Chet Ubowski analyzed the handwriting and found "indications" that Patsy Ramsey wrote the ransom note, according to a search warrant affidavit filed by police in March of 1997. There were also "indications" that John Ramsey did not write it and it was "probable" that JonBenet's then 9-year-old brother Burke Ramsey also did not write it, the affidavit said. Ultimately, though, Ubowski found that "the evidence falls short of that necessary to form a definite conclusion." The ransom note was reportedly also taken to handwriting experts from the FBI, the Secret Service and a private firm in California, but none came to a definitive conclusion.
In comparing the handwriting of Patsy Ramsey or anyone else with the ransom note handwriting, analysts would have taken into account a long list of variables such as spacing, pen pressure, alignment, and the beginnings and endings of loops and strokes, according to David Liebman, past president of the National Association of Document Examiners.
Police determined that the note was written with a pen and pad found in the kitchen of the house. Written elsewhere on the pad, in what could have been a "practice" version of the ransom note, were the words "Dear Mr. and Mrs. Ramsey." Since the pad came from within the house, it is speculated that an intruder would have had to compose the letter directly before or after the attack.
Questions have also been raised about the note's content. The $118,000 demand was almost the exact amount of John Ramsey's Christmas bonus that year. It also contains references that may not have been known to outsiders. The phrase near the letter's conclusion, "use that good southern common sense of yours," was an inside family joke, according to journalist Lawrence Schiller.
Fabric Fibers, Duct Tape and the Murder Weapons
Four fibers found on the duct tape covering JonBenet's mouth "were consistent with" the jacket Patsy Ramsey wore to a party Christmas night — and also had on the next morning, according to Perfect Murder — Perfect Town, a new book out this week by journalist Lawrence Schiller. Forensic expert Henry Lee and attorney Barry Scheck reportedly point out in the book, though, that "fibers are fibers" and can't be matched like fingerprints.
By tracking Patsy Ramsey's credit card purchases, police found that Ramsey could have purchased the tape, as well as nylon cord used in the strangulation, from a local hardware store, Schiller reports. Neither the tape nor the cord were recovered at the crime scene.
The weapon used to open an 8.5-inch fracture in JonBenet's skull was reportedly believed to be a flashlight found in the kitchen. There have also been reports that a stun gun may have been used in the crime, though police have refused comment on the issue.
A 911 Call and Pineapple Chunks
The 911 call made to police by Patsy Ramsey at 5:51 a.m. was reportedly enhanced to reveal Burke in the background asking, "What did you find?" and being reprimanded by his father, who said, "We are not talking to you." Patsy, who apparently had not hung up the phone correctly, allegedly can be heard shouting, "Oh my Jesus, oh my Jesus."
This contradicts the Ramseys' statements to police. They had maintained that Burke slept through the entire ordeal, not waking up until 7 a.m., after police had arrived at the home, sources close to the case have said.
This conflicting story does not mean Burke is being considered in the crime, his attorney said at the time. "He certainly is not a suspect, and even the Boulder police have assured me he is not a suspect," the attorney said.
The 911 tape reportedly was enhanced by Aerospace Corp., a southern California company that specializes in defense contracting but also does work for law enforcement agencies.
Also apparently conflicting with statements from the Ramseys were undigested chunks of pineapple found in JonBenet's intestine during the autopsy. This indicates she would have had to have eaten the fruit within two hours of her death, but the Ramseys held that they carried a sleeping JonBenet upstairs and put her to bed at 10 p.m., just after returning home from a Christmas party.
The Teddy Bear
The most recent scuttlebutt over evidence in the crime occurred in late January of this year when District Attorney Alex Hunter's office posted on its Web site a picture of a stuffed toy bear and asked for the public's help in determining its origins. A few days later the picture was removed and police said they had collected the information they had been seeking.
Blood and hair samples were taken from every member of the Ramsey family as well as those known to have associated with JonBenet, but some DNA found at the crime scene has not matched up, leaving open some mysterious possibilities. Next: The Media, the Public and JonBenet