always wanted to be unique, and
now I've made it: I'm the only person in America -- apart from the two
accused -- who thinks that John and Patsy Ramsey are being publicly
destroyed for a crime they didn't commit.
Perhaps I'm merely ignorant. I don't have access to the police files on
the case -- just the copious "evidence" that's been leaked steadily to
the National Enquirer, the Globe,
Newsweek and Vanity Fair by
the Boulder, Colo. cops. Problem is, what they've got, more than 10
months after the slaying, isn't anywhere close to an indictment. So
they've done the next best thing: smeared the Ramseys up and down, with
the aid of the press, hoping to make their prime suspects crack. It's
the same tactic the FBI used against Richard Jewell in the Atlanta
Olympics bombing case. And, as with the Jewell case, the cops may be
flat out wrong.
Let's look at the case, which rests entirely on circumstantial, often
unspeakably tendentious, evidence that the cops have fed to the
Ramseys did not act normally after JonBenet's death.
As Vanity Fair recounts it, as John Ramsey laid his
daughter's body on the floor after discovering it in his cellar, "he
started to moan, while peering around to see who was looking at him."
Hmmm. Suspicious. Left unspecified is what constitutes normal behavior
when your child has been murdered in your home. Vanity Fair goes
to great lengths to portray John Ramsey as a man lacking the ability to
express emotions, and it might very well be normal for such a man to
moan and look around for help at such a moment.
It might also be normal for this man, in particular, to feel
overwhelmed by sick destiny, inasmuch as his wife had been stricken
with breast cancer and he had already lived through the death of
another child -- reported by the Globe with the
following headline: "DADDY ABUSED JONBENET'S SISTER!: Ramsey girl was
killed before she could tell." Actually, the sister died in a car
crash, and there is so far no proof that Ramsey "abused" her, however
that word is meant.
Ramsey found the body without even looking for it.
According to Vanity Fair, John Ramsey, after being
told by a Boulder cop to search for the missing JonBenet, "bolted from
the kitchen and headed down to the basement. Fleet White [Ramsey's
former friend] told us that Ramsey went directly to a small broken
window on the north side of the house and paused ... John said, 'Yeah,
I broke it last summer.'" From this, an investigator talking to Vanity
Fair concludes, Ramsey "wanted Fleet to see the window to
set up an intruder theory, but no one but a small child or a midget
could have crawled through that space. While Fleet is looking at the
window, John disappears down the hall directly to the little room where
the body is."
Of course, there are other uses for a broken window other than crawling
through it. Like reaching through the hole in the glass from the
outside and opening the lock. But why did Ramsey go directly to that
little room? Perhaps because he had a dreadful intuition of what he
might find there, or because of some small sign that only a man who
lived in that house would notice.
The Ramseys refused to cooperate with police, hired attorneys and went
on CNN to cry their innocence.
This is the
Ramseys-protest-too-much theory. But since when was calling an attorney
evidence of guilt? Any competent attorney would have advised the
Ramseys that they would be the immediate prime suspects, because most
child murders are committed by parents or relatives. Being told to be
wary of the police would seem to be quite sound legal advice. Going on
CNN was bizarre, not to mention a ghastly PR failure. But, despite the
supposed detection of falsehoods in John Ramsey's voice by the National
Enquirer's "experts", it proves
absolutely nothing. Vanity Fair found it shockingly
significant that Ramsey told CNN, "I don't know if it was an attack on
me, on my company ..." Well, Ramsey is in the software business, which
may politely be described as cutthroat. He may suffer from the
egocentric delusions that are fairly common among self-made men. But
that is hardly proof he murdered his daughter.
4. Crucial forensic evidence was apparently
removed or erased from the crime scene, or was compromised when Ramsey
picked up JonBenet's body.
Cops have been known to bungle evidence -- anyone remember the O.J.
trial? -- in the most extraordinary ways. And if it was the killer's
work, how does that point ineluctably to John Ramsey? Is he the only
one in the state of Colorado who might have read any number of
detective novels and police procedurals that provide advanced courses
in forensic cover-ups? As for picking up his daughter's body, with no
police officer around to tell him not to, maybe it was the action of a
shocked, grieving father. Unless of course, as Vanity Fair
insists, the man has no heart.
5. The handwriting on the note might be
The only suspect, according to a handwriting analyst, whose writing was
in any way similar to the ransom note was Patsy Ramsey. And the note
contained a phrase she had been heard to speak: "Use that good,
Southern common sense of yours." Well, handwriting analysis (as Seymour
Hersh will mournfully tell you about the fake Marilyn Monroe-JFK
letters) is often about as accurate as farting at the moon. (I was
personally present at a murder trial where a graphologist discoursed
expertly on the differences between two samples, until the defense
attorney said, "Man, can't you see they're photocopies of the same
thing?") But if it was Patsy Ramsey spending hours at the
crime scene after the murder painfully composing the "ransom note,"
then what was John Ramsey doing? Covering for his wife, as presumably
he has been ever since? Or is it the other way around? Why one would
cover for the other, however, is not clear. Who wants to live in the
same house with a known killer?. And if anything, obtaining sole
possession of their joint means might be ample reason to turn the other
over to the cops.
6. Sick parents exploited, abused and
psychologically destroyed their too-beautiful child.
The tabloids have suggested that JonBenet was murdered either by
accident, in the course of a sex game gone awry or in a panic, brought
on by fear she would expose her parent-abuser. The current issue of
Globe says that Patsy killed JonBenet in a rage over her bed-wetting
(there were urine stains on the underwear of the victim) and that John
is merely covering up for her.
In the classic study of such killings, Philip J. Resnick's "Child
Murder by Parents: A Psychiatric Review of Filicide," such "accidents"
accounted for 12 percent of Resnick's 131 cases. Most of them indeed
happened when the killer was in a sudden rage over something the child
did (or was seen as having done). But JonBenet was garroted -- the
autopsy report notes the "deep furrow" on her neck -- which does not
suggest a spontaneous assault. And it is very, very rare for a husband
and wife to collude in such a crime. Resnick notes "scattered reports
where both husband and wife planned the murder ... usually because they
could see no way out of their poverty." Does that sound like the
But in the end, it doesn't matter -- not to the media who covered this
murder as if they'd already solved it -- whether or not the Ramseys are
genuine killers. Even before she was murdered, goes the media
wisdom, JonBenet was figuratively dead, her childhood sacrificed on the
altar of her parents' allegedly deviant desires. What it comes down to
is this: The Ramseys are being accused of an abomination less on the
basis of evidence than on our censorious expectations about what
parents should be. The Ramseys do not weep enough. They dressed up
their little girl like a grown-up -- why, like a whore.
They made her perform for strangers. They wanted her to be a paperback
version of themselves. By destroying what is left of the Ramsey family,
we can persuade ourselves that they inhabit another world, one that the
rest of us of course renounce, as we try to turn our toddlers into
Harvard Business School material.
But that doesn't make the Ramseys killers. And I would rather be wrong
about their guilt later than wrong about their presumption of innocence
now. So I won't believe they are guilty -- not until I see much better
evidence than the unexamined bits and pieces and groundless
suppositions thrown at us by a police department under fire and a
sensation-seeking press corps.