Innocent Murder -
The Real Story Of
By Jay Weidner & Vincent Bridge
Genesis 1: 18 - ". . .to govern the day and the
night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good."
Psalms 118: 27 - "The Lord is God, and he has made his light
shine upon us. With boughs in hand, bind the festal sacrifice with ropes to
of the altar."
The Revelation of St. John 1: 18 - "I am the Living one. I was
dead and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death
On Christmas Night, 1996, in an upper class neighborhood of quintessentially
yuppie Boulder, Colorado, six year old beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey was murdered
in her own home. The crime was made to look like a botched kidnapping, and
the fumbling of the local police created an unsolvable problem. Over three
after the murder, after endless investigations by police, the district attorney's
office and a grand jury, it looks as if there will never be enough physical
evidence to make an arrest.
And so the Ramseys, John and Patsy, have decided at long last to tell their own
version of the story in their new book, The Death of Innocence, due out Friday,
March 17. To promote the book, John and Patsy will also appear on ABC-TV that
night in a supposedly no-holds barred taped interview with Barbara Walters.
Things had been quiet on the JonBenet murder story since the dismissal last fall
of the Boulder County grand jury without handing down an indictment, but last
month's television ratings period saw a revival of interest in the case. Two
made for TV movies, one a two-nighter based on the best-selling Perfect Murder,
Perfect Town by Lawrence Schiller, aired in the last week of the ratings month
to better than average audiences.
This new wave of interest in the case, some of it sympathetic or at least non-judgmental
to the Ramseys, will undoubtedly help the sales of the Ramseys' new book. In
that book, according to Boulder's Daily Camera, the Ramseys supply a list of
possible suspects as they present their version of the intruder theory. Perhaps
most interesting of all is a peek at the new book in the Star tabloid for the
week of March 7 - 14 which reveals that Patsy had two strange premonitions of
disaster in the days before Christmas. The first involved the lookalike doll
that Patsy gave JonBenet as a Christmas present. Seeing it in its wrapping carton
suggested, to Patsy, JonBenet in her coffin.
The second premonition was more subtle but goes directly to the heart of the
case. Patsy claimed that she liked the purple of the Easter vestments and chose
to use purple as her Christmas tree colors that year. In the book, Patsy reveals
that she realizes now she had unconsciously introduced death into the Christmas
celebration by using the color that signifies Christ's sacrifice, rather than
A quote given to the Star by Richard Ressler, former FBI profiler, addresses
the meaning of these premonitions. "It is strange," Ressler commented, "that
Mrs. Ramsey would have one premonition of an impending murder but to have
two is highly suspicious. From a psychological standpoint, one has to ask,
these things really happen or is she now just trying to convince herself?
all be a smokescreen to avoid tougher questions when she goes on TV to discuss
However, just as the apparently orchestrated media blitz leading up to the
publication of the Ramseys' book was taking shape, a story appeared in Boulder's
that had the potential to break the stalemated case wide open. Headlined "Huge
Breakthrough In JonBenet Ramsey Murder Case?" the February 25 story,
by Daily Camera editorial writer Barrie Hartman, opened with a bold lead
" District Attorney Alex Hunter has turned over new information to Boulder
police and the FBI that he says could provide a major breakthrough in solving
JonBenét Ramsey murder case." Hartman continues, writing that "the
information is from testimony and documents provided voluntarily by a 37-year-old
California woman who was brought forward by Boulder attorney Lee Hill. The
woman said she has suffered a lifetime of sexual and physical abuse, beginning
3. Her story, if true, could mean the Ramsey case is tangled in sexual abuse
and involves more people than originally thought. Hunter said he finds the
woman to be 'very believable.' Boulder police detectives, however, aren't
'Even if only 15 percent of what she says is true,' Hunter said, 'this case
warrants investigation. And if Boulder cops don't want to do it, I will take
to the US. Attorney.' "
And now, two weeks later, after Boulder detectives have questioned the informant
and her therapist in California, long time Boulder County District Attorney Alex
Hunter has decided to not run again for relection ending a 28 year career. On
March 9, he issued a short and terse statement to the effect that he was ending
his reign as District Attroney. No reason was given, certainly none related to
the on-going investigation of child sexual abuse and JonBenet's death. Did the
breakthrough in the case break Alex Hunter?
Trying to get a handle on the JonBenet Ramsey murder is like attempting to catch
a rattlesnake blindfolded and with one hand tied behind your back, without getting
bit. It's not easy, but it can be done. District Attorney Hunter has been trying
to grab the rattlesnake longer than any official currently involved in the investigation.
It comes as no surprise then that the rattlesnake got him first. In dealing with
rattlesnakes, hesitation and uncertainty can be fatal.
Unfortunately, confusion and uncertainty are the only certainties to be found,
three years later, amid the ruins of the case. Every crime scene, especially
a murder, has a signature, an individual identity, imposed upon it by the criminal.
In this case however, someone attempted to obscure that identity and the mistakes
made by the police in the early hours of the investigation served to compound
the problem. Therefore, before we make a grab at the rattlesnake, let's listen
carefully for its rattle.
When we look at the evidence, and most of it has been published in one form or
another and is available on the internet, we find that we forced to make an immediate
choice of assumptions. Either the Ramseys are complicit in some way, or they
are completely innocent. The mere choice of an assumption forces on us certain
conclusions. And so we go looking for evidence to support that conclusion.
For instance, let us suppose that, as implausible as it sounds on the face of
it, the Ramseys are telling the absolute truth. They went to bed a happy family
exhausted from a busy Christmas Day and looking forward to the trip to their
vacation house the next morning. Patsy got up first to prepare for the trip and
discovered a ransom note on the back stairway. She called 911 and the story proceeded
If we make that assumption, we must go looking for traces of the Intruder. Someone
entered the Ramsey home, without a trace of forced entry, wrote a ransom note
on paper found there, abducted JonBenet from her room, took her to the basement
to an obscure corner where she was sexually assaulted, killed and then cleaned,
dressed and wrapped in a blanket. The Intruder then left, leaving the ligature
in place around her neck, while taking with him the leftover cord and duct tape.
But he does not take a weapon possibly used in the assault, the flashlight.
Now, this is a truly unusual signature for an intruder sexual assault kidnapping.
In fact, it is unique. Intruder assaults and kidnappings do happen, although
their frequency is so low as to make them the rarest of all molestations and
assaults on children. We can search the annals of such cases going back to the
19th century without finding anything remotely resembling the Ramsey case.
Intruders, particularly strangers, do not make unforced entries. At the very
least, this suggests an intruder who had some access to the house. Kidnappers
do not linger to write long ransom notes, and sexual predators do not assault
their prey in the house where the abduction takes place; screams could bring
unwanted attention. Most of all, vicious sex killers do not carefully bathe,
dress and wrap their victims. They are more likely to leave them displayed as
a message than to hide them in the deepest corner of the basement.
However, if we have made this assumption, then we must somehow find facts
to fit the profile. So the Ramseys have suggested that it was someone close
them who entered the house while they were at the Christmas party. This person
entertained themselves by writing an extensive ransom note as they waited
for the family to return. After everyone had gone to bed, this familiar person
would have gone with Santa Claus," Patsy tells us -- lures her down
to the basement where they sexually assault and kill her. Filled with remorse,
familiar person then cleans, dresses and wraps the dead child and leaves,
all about the ransom note. Of course, that also leaves open the question
of why the note was written in the first place. If the motive was sexual
leave the note? If the motive was kidnapping, why the sexual assault in the
In the end, the Intruder theory leads only to more complications and the
sort of academic stretching of a point that allowed the Scholastics of the
to argue with the round earth theory even after Columbus and Magellan proved
it. At some point, we must apply Occam's razor to the endless knotted string
of "Yes, but. . ." speculation. Like the Emperor's new clothes,
and the flat earth, the Intruder theory exists only in the mind of those
One look at the evidence, and the Intruder disappears.
So who's left? Only those in the house that night.
Statistically, the vast majority, over 98 percent, of child murders in the home
are committed by a family member, usually a parent. John Ramsey's two older children
by his first wife were cleared by alibi and absence. In the house that night
were only John, Patsy and their 9 year old son Burke. If we reject the Intruder
theory, then the murderer must be one of these three.
In the last three years, the tabloids and the rest of the media have endlessly
rehashed the scenarios involving these three suspects. Unfortunately, none of
these scenarios answer all the issues raised by the signature of the crime.
If John Ramsey did it, perhaps accidentally as part of a sex game, and then tried
to concoct an abduction scheme to fool his wife and the authorities, then we
must ask why he didn't dispose of the body to help support the kidnapping claim?
He would have had plenty of time before his wife awoke and discovered the note.
Similarly, if Patsy or Burke had killed JonBenet, either accidentally or as part
of a punishment that got out of hand, then why stage the elaborate and ineffective
abduction attempt? Let us say that Burke and JonBenet were up after their parents
went to bed and that Burke hit JonBenet over the head with the flashlight for
instance, severely injuring her. Why then would John and Patsy finish the job
by strangulation and then fake the abduction? Even if we assume that Burke not
only hit his sister with the flashlight but choked her to death as well, why
would his parents cover it up with a fake abduction?
Or suppose that Patsy, arising early for the trip, discovered that JonBenet had
wet the bed again and in a rage killed her. To save herself, Patsy concocts the
Intruder theory, writes the ransom note, throttles and sexually assaults JonBenet
and hides her in the basement. She then calls 911 and brazens it out from there.
In many ways, this is the most satisfying scenario.
And yet it does not explain many of the bizarre points of the crime, such as
the complexities of the note and JonBenet's death by strangulation. In addition,
it presupposes serious mental conditions on Patsy's part. Psychosis, sociopathy
and a deep disassociative disorder are all indicated by Patsy's supposed behavior
in this scenario. If we grant the existence of these disorders in Patsy's psyche,
then we must speculate on how she got that way.
But, before we do that, one last scenario remains to be examined. As horrific
as it is, this last scenario covers the facts better than any other yet presented,
and has a key piece of so-far unexplained physical evidence to support it. The
perpetrator in this view is JonBenet's brother Burke, not as an accidental event
covered-up by his parents, but as a full scale, premeditated sex crime.
In the three years since JonBenet's death, many things have happened, including
two years of school shootings, culminating in the recent shooting death of a
classmate by a six-year old in Michigan. With that in mind, it is no longer so
easy to dismiss the possibility that 9 year-old Burke planned and executed the
Perhaps the attention being shown to JonBenet in her new role as Patsy's beauty
queen surrogate made her a prime target. Burke, fed on a diet of action movies
and comic books, spends months planning out the scenario just so, to match some
distorted fictionalized image of a kidnapping and sexual assault. He plants his
seeds by telling JonBenet that Santa Claus will visit them special on Christmas
night. He lures her quietly downstairs where they wait, eating pineapple, for
Santa's appearance. Burke slugs JonBenet with the flashlight and then drags or
carries her to the basement where he sexually assaults her with a paint brush
and then strangles her to death. He hides the body with care, plants the note
and goes back to bed. Patsy awakens early for the trip, and the story goes on
Except for one thing. Burke, waiting for the sound of pandemonium, gets up and
joins in as Patsy calls 911. On the enhanced tape, Burke's voice is clearly heard
in the background, as is John's voice telling him to be quiet. Burke was sent
back to bed, and by 7 o'clock had been dispatched to the Whites, where he remained
all day. The Ramseys have insisted under oath that Burke slept through the whole
thing. They have done everything possible to keep Burke and any question of Burke's
role out of the official record, including a credibility stretching insistence
on the Intruder theory.
So, do we have the world's youngest psychopathic sex killer? Not quite. It is
very unlikely, as we will see below, that he could have written the note. We
might imagine a precocious and deranged nine year old killing his sister, but
the psycho-sexual component of the crime forces us into special pleading. Violent
sexual activity in prepubescent children almost always stems from the desire
to act out the abuse perpetrated on them. Therefore, if young Burke is sick enough
to commit the crime on his own, then, as with his mother Patsy, we must ask how
he got that way. Finally we must deal with the fact that Burke attended his school
for an entire semester following the murder. It is almost impossible to believe
that he didn't confide in anyone about his nefarious act. Furthermore, if John
and Patsy were covering up for Burke it is doubtful that they would have insisted
on sending him to school for a half a year.
As we look through our spread of scenarios, one key make-it-or-break-it point
has been the ransom note. First of all its length, not so much a note as a letter,
argues against its being written by an intruder. Secondly, there is a tone of
barely suppressed rage against John Ramsey that permeates the entire letter.
This strongly suggests a personal connection and motive. However, there is a
certain degree of confusion in the note -- John is not from the South -- which
suggests that the author confused John Ramsey and Patsy's father, Don Paugh,
who is from the South. As we will see, this just might be the single most significant
clue in the whole ransom note.
An analysis of the ransom note and a psychological profile done by SERAPH
Inc., a private profiling agency run by Dale Yeager and Denise Knoke, and
to the Boulder Police on May 25, 1998, suggests that the case is one of "a
child's murder with ritualistic overtones. Mrs. Ramsey's motives and post
incident actions cannot be understood with rational thought. This crime was
by a delusional individual who has convinced herself of her own innocence.
Sociopaths always view their violent actions as justified. When a divine
added to this justification pathology, you have a highly volatile individual."
The report continues: "We believe that Patsy Ramsey is a delusional sociopath.
Based on our experience with religious sociopaths, we believe that she saw JonBenet's
death as a sacrifice for sins she had committed." Essentially, Yeager
and Knoke had cracked the case back in 1998. The only thing lacking was some
for Patsy's sense of sin and the need to atone by sacrificing her daughter.
Therefore, the real story remained elusive.
That is, until two weeks ago when news began to surface about a child sex abuse
ring and their involvement in the case. Suddenly, a motive for Patsy's deeply
held sense of sin and need for atonement was at hand. Finally, after three years,
a coherent picture of the case began to emerge, one that explains everything
from Patsy's premonitions and the ransom note to the inability of the local authorities
to make an arrest. If we have the courage to look at the unthinkable, the real
story of JonBenet's death appears with the sudden clarity of those 3D images
hidden within apparent computer generated chaos. It all depends on your focus.
Then let's focus our attention on the ransom note. From the very first line
problems emerge. Addressed to Mr. Ramsey, it reads: "Listen carefully! We are a group
of individuals that represent a small foreign faction." Of course, a real "foreign
faction" would never refer to themselves as such. The whole line eerily
echoes the movie Nick of Time which aired at 7:30 on Christmas night on a local
Boulder cable station. The movie concerns the kidnapping of a six year old girl
by an unnamed political faction and in the film the victim is told to "Listen
to me very carefully!" Bill Cox, a guest that night of the Ramseys'
friends the Whites, remembered watching it.
" We respect your bussiness (sic) but not the country it serves," the note
continues. "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." This is a rather straight forward, if stiff and somewhat
formal, attempt to support the faction kidnapping idea.
The next line however provides an important clue, one that must be examined
in some depth. "You will withdraw $118,000.00 from your account." The
use of such a specific amount is unusual. Terrorists, or even a normal kidnapper,
would have asked for more money. The fact that this amount is almost exactly
the bonus John received that year from Access Graphics is significant, giving
us our first indication that the kidnapping is a personal attack on John
The number 118 has suggested to some investigators the biblical reference of
Psalm 118. The police discovered during their initial search on December 26,
1996, that the Ramsey family Bible was open to Psalm 118 on John Ramsey's desk.
Others confirm that during Patsy's bout with ovarian cancer, she used Psalm 118
as a source of spiritual strength.
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