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 years 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 his birth.
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, did these things really happen or is she now just trying to convince herself? Could it all be a smokescreen to avoid tougher questions when she goes on TV to discuss her book?”
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 Daily Camera 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 sentence.
” 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 the 3-year-old 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 at age 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 so sure. ‘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 the case 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 from there.
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 to them who entered the house while they were at the Christmas party. This person then 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 — “She 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, this familiar person then cleans, dresses and wraps the dead child and leaves, forgetting 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 assault, why leave the note? If the motive was kidnapping, why the sexual assault in the house?
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 Renaissance 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 who believe. 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 perfect murder.
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 from there.
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 delivered 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 committed by a delusional individual who has convinced herself of her own innocence. Sociopaths always view their violent actions as justified. When a divine intervention is 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 justification 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 Ramsey.
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.
In the analysis of the ransom note by Yeager and Knoke referred to above, this reference becomes an important clue. “Psalm 118 is a biblical chapter that is used quite often in the Charismatic/Pentecostal movement,” they write in their 1998 report to the Boulder Police Department “This subculture of the Christian Religion has many unwritten fundamentals that they adhere to. One area in which they divert from main stream Christian theology is in the area of biblical interpretation. Because of their extreme emphasis on spiritual gifts, they tend to have a more flexible view of interpretation compared to the more scholarly approach taken by their fellow Christians in main steam denominations. ”
Yeager and Knoke continue, pointing out that “rather than believing the scriptures to be the general will of God being presented to all believers, they take a more mystical approach by viewing the scriptures as a prophetic tool used by God to speak to individual believers. This flexible attitude leads to extraordinarily diverse views theologically. We believe that Patsy Ramsey took this approach from the Osteen, Hickey and Barnhill books that she was introduced to during her illness.”
However, Psalm 118, and particularly the verse quoted at the head of this article, verse 27, is more than just a fundamentalist text on the glory of God. As Yeager and Knoke point out, it is also suggestive of the power of sacrifice. “Based on my experience,” Yeager wrote in his earlier 1997 report, “this second section of verse 27 has been used by several white supremacy groups such as the Christian Identity movement and the Aryan Nation to justify their killing of blacks, Jews and other minorities. In their non-orthodox view, the verse is speaking of offering a person as a sacrifice to God and God is accepting their sacrifice on his altar as atonement. ”
Yeager’s 1997 report to the Boulder Police goes on to mention that “the Hebrews where required to offer a blood sacrifice to God to atone for their sins as a nation. A lamb or sheep would be placed on the altar and tied to the four extended horns of the altar with thick cords. The animal was then cut and bled until it was dead. The blood was then used in ceremony for the ‘washing away by the blood, the sins of the people.’ ” This idea is still found in the fundamentalist belief in the redemptive power of Christ’s blood, shed as it was as part of the final sacrificial atonement. “Washed in the blood of the lamb” is a common motif in fundamentalist hymns.
Even more interesting is Yeager’s reference to a similar case which “involved a woman with a very conservative Christian background, who strangled her daughter and used this verse as a justification for the killing. Her belief was that the child would be better off in ‘heaven with God’ and that the daughter would be a redemptive sacrifice to God for her [the mother’s] sins.” It is unknown whether the Boulder Police followed Yeager’s advice and asked the FBI for details on the case. If they had, they would have been astounded by the similarities.
An extensive search of the ritual abuse literature turned up the facts in the case. In 1979, a Silver Springs, Maryland, woman took her five year old daughter to church and there strangled her to death. When questioned by Linda Stone for an article in David Sakheim and Susan Devine’s 1992 book Out of Darkness: Exploring Satanism and Ritual Abuse, the woman confirmed Yeager’s comments. She felt that she was saving her child from the same lifetime of sin that she herself had endured. The sin of course was ritualistic sexual abuse and pedophilia.
In commenting on the case, author Stone remarks that “the inability of a parent to protect his or her child while witnessing the ongoing symptomatic behavior that the child is exhibiting as a consequence of the ritual abuse is probably one of the most stressful circumstances that a person can endure.” In the case of the Maryland woman, such stress and the twisted nature of the Christian cult in which she was caught combined to produce the mercy murder of her own daughter. “God required a sacrifice,” the woman told Stone, “and at least she [her daughter] died before they could corrupt her.”
While considering the meaning of the $118,000 ransom request, we should also look at the other two verses from the Bible quoted at the head of this article. Genesis 1:18 suggests that God approves of separating the light from the darkness while Revelation 1:18 points to the resurrection motif of ever-lasting life in the faith. Both of these could be used in the same way as verse 27 of Psalm 118 to justify a sacrificial murder in the name of salvation.
Returning to the note, the next sentence dealt with the money: “$100,000 in $100 bills and the remaining $18,000 in $20 bills.” This is straightforward, and attempts to suggest a savvy kidnapper collecting his ransom in small bills. When we consider the request more closely however, it is clear that this is an arbitrary division, perhaps designed to emphasize the one and the eighteen of the Bible references. In which case the text of Revelation 1:18 becomes even more important: “I am the Living one. I was dead and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and hell.”
And then comes a curious sentence: “Make sure that you bring an adequate size attache to the bank.” This sounds more like a wife instructing her husband in some household matter, than a kidnapper giving instructions. It also suggests that the writer is educated enough to spell attaché and use it correctly.
“When you get home you will put the money in a brown paper bag,” the note continues in the same nagging tone. “I will call you between 8 and 10 am tomorrow to instruct you on delivery. The delivery will be exhausting so I advise you to be rested.” The brown paper bag is another odd note. Why not keep the money in the attaché? The advice to rest seems to be taken from the movie Dirty Harry, which aired on November 29 on TBS in Boulder.
“If we monitor you getting the money early, we might call you to arrange an earlier delivery of the money and hence the earlier delivery [crossed out and replaced by] pick-up of your daughter.” The author of the note has used the word delivery four times in the space of a few sentences, then corrected the last usage to pick-up. This and the use of the word “hence” suggests an educated person, or the attempt to appear so.
“Any deviation from 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, F.B.I., etc., 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 forewarned that 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 so don’t think that killing will be difficult. Don’t underestimate us John. Use that good southern common sense of yours. It is up to you now John! Victory! S.B.T.C.” (Italics not in original.)
At this point, the temptation is to see this as the War and Peace of ransom notes. It is as if the author became involved in their own creation and spun it out as far as it would. go This section is filled with references to movies, Dirty Harry again as well as Speed, and fairly drips with venom toward John Ramsey and/or Don Paugh. Clues also abound, as marked in italics in the above section of the note. We will look at these clues individually and then try to determine their pattern.
The word execution tells us that the author of the note felt that JonBenet was executed. The threat of no body to bury suggests the reason why the killer did not dispose of the body. The two gentlemen is very curious, suggesting that the author felt that two men were to blame. Certainly one of those men could be John Ramsey, and the other could be his father-in-law. The beheading reference seems to be an extra piece of nastiness, hiding perhaps a deep seated desire to castrate male authority. Stray dog echoes a line from Dirty Harry and has the added connotation of describing the author’s view of his or her self as isolated and degraded like a stray dog. Scanned is a word that has different connotations depending on how it is used. Here it is used in the sense of supermarket scanner, rather than a computer image scanner. The phrase law enforcement countermeasures has an oddly formal and made-up quality to it, as if the author was uncertain how to say it. Grow a brain comes from the movie Speed, with Dennis Hopper. Constant scrutiny is another indicator of the author’s state of mind. Obviously, since the idea is present throughout the note, the feeling of being watched constantly is a powerful component of the author’s psyche. Fat cat seems to be a reference to Don Paugh, who, according to Access Graphics employees, used the words cat in its slang sense all the time. The confusion between John and Don continues with the good southern common sense phrase. It is also possible that this is another slap at John because he doesn’t have any, as he isn’t from the south.
The last two key words are the most important. In their 1998 profile, Yeager and Knoke found them to be very revealing. “In the Charismatic subculture, acronyms are quite common and used quite frequently as teaching tools and on banners [In church icons]. S.B.T.C. is a well-used acronym that represents the words “saved by the cross”. In our extensive database of terroristic groups, we find no use of this phrase with White Supremacy or International Organizations. The author of the ransom note uses this acronym along with the word “victory”. The word “victory” is used in the Charismatic subculture as a verb. It is seen as the result of actions taken by believers to bind and overcome Satan’s power primarily in the areas of physical health.”
What a strange way to end a ransom note! It is almost as if the author is trying to convey a very precise message, one that implies a victory of some kind over the forces of evil. Saved By The Cross becomes even more important when we remember Patsy’s supposed premonition over using Easter colors at Christmas. The closing actually forces us to the conclusion that Patsy is the author.
When we look at the totality of the clues and hints in the ransom note, we are struck first of all by its theatricality. The note was staged to convey a message, one that had nothing to do with any real kidnapping. When we look closely at that message, we come face to face with a Christian sacrificial victory, an innocent saved by the cross, even unto death. The similarities to the Maryland case cited above are only too clear.
In the note, the author places the blame on two “gentlemen,” who might be John and her father Don Paugh. The good southern common sense phrase, whether we interpret it as a dig at John or a confusion with Don Paugh in the manner of a Freudian slip, could only have come from Patsy. Add to this the amount of the bonus, the ransom request and the Biblical connections, including the open Bible on John’s desk, and Patsy is the only possible author. “Victory” and “S.B.T.C.” clinches the identification, and announces that the deed is done, the innocent is saved and beyond their reach.
The note was an attempt to tell those she felt were truly responsible that the sacrifice had been made, and at the same time to point the finger at the perpetrators of the true evil. Patsy made it as obvious as she could, and in the first hours after JonBenet’s body was discovered it is possible that Patsy wanted to be caught. Perhaps, she really wanted to tell her story, at least unconsciously. The note suggests that she did. But the opportunity was lost, and the “justification pathology” became fixed.
Everything detailed above was known to the Boulder Police as early as the summer of 1997. It was generally agreed that this evidence made Patsy the prime suspect, but no conclusive motive could be demonstrated that would be horrific enough to justify, even in Patsy’s mind, the murder of her daughter. In other words, what could be so bad that a mother would think that death was preferable? If the Boulder Police followed up on the Maryland case cited in the Yeager analysis, then they had an idea of what would drive a mother to such a deed.
But until Boulder Attorney Lee Hill showed up with his California informant, such a motive was pure speculation. Suddenly, it looked as if there might be something solid to the idea of sexual abuse. Patsy might have had a motive after all.
Barrie Hartman, in his February 25 story in the Boulder Daily Camera reported the details. “The woman has described to police years of sexual and physical abuse in California homes at the hands of adults who stayed at holiday and other parties after other guests had left for the evening. Then, she said, another “party,” one of sexual abuse for the gratification of a select group of adults, would begin. In talking to detectives, the woman draws parallels between sexual techniques used at these sessions and the physical evidence of garroting that investigators found on the body of JonBenét Ramsey.”
California ranks number one in both pedophilia and ritualistic sexual abuse. In a study of 57 ritual abuse cases done by “Margaret Smith,” herself an abuse survivor, 37% of the cases occurred in California. She also found that 98% percent of perpetrators fell into four large occupational categories; 35% were professionals, either doctors or lawyers, 25% were teachers, 22% priests and ministers, and 15% were police officers. Given these statistics, the victim’s fears of authority are well justified . “The woman told detectives she believes JonBenét was killed accidentally when an asphyxiation technique used to stimulate an orgasmic response during a child sex and porno “party” went too far,” Hartman’s story continued. “The woman told police she knows firsthand about asphyxiation (choking) to produce a sexual response because it had been done to her when she was a child. The woman said in her experience little girls were dressed provocatively and trained to say provocative things, such as, “It’s a pleasure to please you.” She told police that when girls did not perform as expected, they were struck on the head. That was because their hair covered the wound. A big night for such “parties” was Christmas night, she said. Over the years, she said, many parties were held then because a large number of cars around a house did not arouse suspicion in the neighborhood and the children had a full week to heal from their wounds before returning to school.”
And then the story turns to the crucial element, a connection to the Ramsey case. “The woman said she knows the Ramseys through the Fleet White family. She said the godfather to her mother is Fleet White Sr., 86, of California. Fleet White Jr. of Boulder and John Ramsey were close friends until the death of JonBenét. White Jr. was with John Ramsey when JonBenét’s body was found in the basement of the Ramsey’s Boulder home.” What is curiously not mentioned is that the Ramseys actually attended a Christmas party at the Whites on Christmas Night. Fleet White Jr. was cleared by police in April of 1997, but this information casts new light on many of the strange elements of the case.
As Alex Hunter, Boulder District Attorney, said earlier in the same story, even if only 15% of the story is true, then it deserves to be investigated. Whether that investigation will go the way of all the rest remains to be seen.
However, this new information, combined with an analysis of the ransom note, allows us to piece together a scenario of the crime that fits the peculiarities of its signature. Whether this is the truth or not, only Patsy knows.
Patsy Paugh Ramsey fits the classic profile of an abuse survivor. Emotional and physical abuse are most likely, but sexual abuse can not be ruled out. Much of this trauma seems to be associated with her father, whom she recreated by marrying the older John Ramsey. We have no way of knowing how deeply the abuse went in her own family, but the symptoms are there.
Soon after the Ramseys moved to Boulder, they met the Fleet Whites, the family implicated by the California informant. Whether this was the beginning of the problem, or merely another step along the way is uncertain. All we can tell is that it marks a turning point.
Perhaps John was recruited by Fleet and began to receive child pornography in the “brown paper bag” that Patsy chides him with in the ransom note. Perhaps it was at first a social thing that grew slowly into something more. We may never know.
Patsy’s illness marks another turning point. She emerged from it with a strong fundamentalist Christian belief, one that curiously enough either allowed her to participate in her daughter’s pedophilic involvement or blinded her to it. A quote from “Margaret Smith,” who was a member of a Christian cult not unlike the one the Maryland mother who killed her daughter was involved in, shows how confusing the message can be. “In our belief system, the ultimate deity is God manifested through the actions of Jesus. . . We believed that Jesus’ teachings should not be dictated by some church. . . We believe that through Jesus radiated the perfect emanation of Heavenly Light. . . The heavenly light is also. . . Lucifer, the Light Bearer. . .”
What starts out as Christianity has subtly shifted to a worship of Lucifer. “We most certainly would not consider ourselves to be Satan worshipers,” Ms. Smith goes on. “We believe that Satan is a term used by the church to separate the world into good and evil through the eyes of the God of the Old Testament.” The emphasis in the cult was on Jesus as Light Bearer, and awaiting a Luciferian return. “We believe we have to create the perfect race: a race of warriors to prepare for his second coming.”
From the outside, it is hard to determine what the group around the Ramseys truly believed and whether the child abuse ring had cultic or ritualistic overtones. All we can be sure of, as Yeager’s report reminds us, is that is was “a child’s murder with ritualistic overtones.”
The beauty pageant frenzy in the last year of JonBenet’s life seems to have been part of her preparation for entry into the group. As the California informant said, the children were required to act adult and provocative at these gatherings. Several other beauty pageant mothers who knew JonBenet have commented on the inappropriateness of her routines. Her pageant coach claims that these moves did not come from her. Apparently, Patsy herself taught her daughter how to do her very adult bumps and grinds.
Christmas Night at the Whites has an atmosphere of an initiation, an audition to see if all the hard work had paid off. JonBenet apparently passed the test, and may even have been scheduled as the main attraction at the next major event. The California informant, as reported by her attorney Lee Hill, has suggested that JonBenet was killed at the party. This raises some interesting questions. If she had been killed at the party, which must occasionally happen given the nature of the goings-on, then her death would have been handled in a more direct manner. Certainly, no one on the inside of the group would have concocted something like the ransom note.
The most likely scenario is that all went relatively well at the audition. It is possible that JonBenet was not sexually violated, although sex play, including asphyxiation probably did occur. However, it just may be that Patsy did not fully grasp what was about to happen to her little angel. Patsy’s own abuse and sexualization at the hands of her father, Don Paugh, would allow her not to see the sexual objectification of her routines as anything out of the ordinary. The group itself may have appealed to her Christian and mystical side. Who knows exactly what, in her mind, Patsy was training the child to become?
However, after the Christmas party, something snapped in Patsy. In the early morning hours of the 26th, Patsy sat up at the kitchen table pondering what to do. She wrote the ransom note to carefully send a message to John, and subliminally to her father. She goes upstairs, gets the sleeping JonBenet out of bed, and carries her to the basement.
Patsy probably prayed, thinking of Abraham and Isaac, and the great sin for which she must atone. Just as in the letter, her intent in the murder was to leave clues, point a finger, at what she felt was the true evil, the true perpetrators, John and her father, or John and Fleet White. Praying, she slugged JonBenet with the flashlight.
The child awoke from the blow and screamed, once. Patsy stopped her scream with the garrote and strangled her to death. To make the point even more clear, she sexually assaulted her with the same paint brush used to fashion the garrote. Then, without removing the garrote, she dresses her and wraps her in a blanket in the far corner of the basement.
When everything is staged to her satisfaction, she goes upstairs, and puts the flashlight on the kitchen counter. Perhaps she sits for a while in the dark brooding, perhaps she does a load of laundry, and when it is time to get up, still in the clothes she wore to the party the night before, she goes downstairs to find the note.
John of course is confused. Burke is up and running around screaming. Patsy is on the phone to 911. But as John reads the note, it becomes clear that this no ordinary kidnapping. How soon John suspected Patsy is unknown, but it must have been soon. At no time does John show the least regard for the instructions in the note, which warn him that if talks to anyone, JonBenet will be killed.
John gets on the phone and calls the Whites and the others. By 7 o’clock that morning, there were nine people, not including the Boulder Police, wandering through the Ramsey house. By the time the body was found at 1 o’clock that afternoon, no such thing as a crime scene existed. John’s immediate reaction was to call his pilot and tell him to stand by in the company jet. Patsy of course was hysterical, making a variety of bizarre comments, such as publicly begging their priest to bring her back to life.
Soon however, Patsy was tranquilized, becoming by the end of the day totally incoherent. In the meanwhile, the word spread, reaching perhaps many other people in the Boulder community, as Alex Hunter speculated. The pedophiles needed damage control.
And so, two and a half weeks after the story broke, and five days after Alex Hunter decided to quit his job, the JonBenet Ramsey murder case remains in limbo. The real story almost emerged, but where formally there was a media rush, now the quiet is deafening. The Daily Camera’s stories have been picked up by few other media outlets. And now, with Alex Hunter soon to be gone, we face the possibility that the story will never be told.
In closing, we would like to encourage the California woman and her therapist, Ms. Mary Bienkowski, to go public with their information if the Boulder authorities failed to follow up on it. We think it is important that the Ramseys don’t get the last word.