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Grand jury to examine work of Vassar linguist

By Matt Sebastian
Camera Staff Writer


The grand jury investigating the JonBenét Ramsey murder apparently will review the work of a controversial linguist who concluded the 6-year-old's mother wrote the ransom note left in the family home.
Although he has not testified before the secret panel, Vassar College professor Donald Foster said he and prosecutor Michael Kane, who is presenting the case to the grand jury, have been discussing the matter.
"I've been in communication about how my work should best be presented but was asked not to discuss it," Foster said, declining to elaborate.
While handwriting analysis has indicated that Patsy Ramsey may have written the note, investigators apparently have not reached a definitive conclusion.
But a source close to the case told the Daily Camera last fall that Foster compared the language of the ransom note to Patsy Ramsey's writings and concluded JonBenét's mother penned the 2½-page note.
In fact, officials attending a two-day presentation of the case that detectives made to prosecutors in June called Foster's evidence crucial to the police theory of the crime, the source said.
Yet six months before going to work for Boulder police, Foster wrote to Patsy Ramsey, saying he believed "absolutely and unequivocally" that she was innocent.
Surprised police and prosecutors didn't find out about Foster's letter until several days after the June case presentation.
Last fall, when news of his letter to Patsy Ramsey surfaced, Foster refused to elaborate on his apparently contradictory analysis.
"I think that will be entirely explained in due course," Foster said in October.
Suzanne Laurion, the Boulder County district attorney's spokeswoman, declined to comment Thursday on Foster's involvement with the grand jury investigation.
An English professor at Vassar, Foster gained notoriety by linking Theodore Kaczynski to the Unabomber Manifesto and determining that Newsweek columnist Joe Klein was the anonymous author of the political novel "Primary Colors."
On Dec. 26, 1996, JonBenét Ramsey was found beaten and strangled in the basement of her parents' 15th Street home, about eight hours after Patsy Ramsey reportedly discovered the ransom note demanding $118,000 in exchange for the girl's safe return.
Boulder County's grand jury has been hearing evidence in the slaying since mid-September. JonBenét's parents, John and Patsy Ramsey, remain under suspicion in the case. They have vehemently maintained their innocence.

January 29, 1999