Ex-officer reached out to Ramsey
Arndt was in Boulder home when child's body was found
Linda Arndt says Patsy Ramsey was "imprisoned by secrets
Special section: JonBenet Ramsey
By Charlie Brennan, Rocky Mountain News
June 28, 2006
Patsy Ramsey died before Linda Arndt could fulfill her pledge to JonBenet's mother.
"Last year, I was told just about this time of year that she was on her deathbed and gravely ill," said Arndt, the former Boulder Police officer who was the lone detective in the Ramsey home when JonBenet's body was found in the basement on Dec. 26, 1996.
"That spurred me to reach out to her and find her again, which I did. She responded."
Ramsey battled her disease for 13 years, succumbing to ovarian cancer early Saturday at her father's home in Roswell, Ga. She was 49. She will be laid to rest Thursday alongside JonBenet in Marietta, Ga.
Their renewed contact in May 2005, Arndt said, "was a heart-to-heart connection, common decency, showing courtesy and empathy to someone who really had a lot of tragedy."
She talked about what the contact between the two meant to her.
"Knowing that she was dying, that was the impetus I needed to finish, to fulfill the promise that she asked of me," said Arndt, 45.
Officer 'gave her my word'
The day was Jan. 8, 1997. Arndt was at the Child Advocacy Center in Niwot where JonBenet's older brother Burke - now 19 - was being interviewed by a child psychologist.
"Patsy and I were alone for over an hour, and she shared a lot of things in that conversation. She did, and I did," Arndt recalled.
"And one of the things she demanded of me, she looked me in the eye and grabbed my hand and said, 'Promise me, promise me you will stay on this case and you will find out who did this to JonBenet.'
"I don't remember my words, but I gave her my word that I would. And I cannot hold her story any longer."
Arndt wasn't allowed by department brass to stay on the case. She was pulled off in April 1997, quit the force two years later and unsuccessfully sued the department for defamation. Arndt, who still lives in the West but is no longer a police officer, is now occupied, she said, "putting my life back together, trying to find my way back in the world."
And she's writing a memoir in hopes of keeping her promise.
'The right thing to do'
In her first in-depth print interview, Arndt remembered Ramsey as "a lady of grace and courage and spirit, particularly in the face of such unrelenting adversity."
"She was imprisoned by secrets. This whole case has been imprisoned by secrets."
Arndt was reluctant to reveal many details of her contact with JonBenet's mother in the final year of her life.
"I gained nothing and risked everything to contact her. And it was just the right thing to do," Arndt said.
"There's no way to undo the wrong that was done (to the Ramsey family). But (it was) just to acknowledge what you could or couldn't do, and apologize for any error on my part and to offer myself in any way that was helpful to her."
Arndt would not discuss her theories of the case, saying only that she doesn't hold the "prevailing view" within the Boulder Police Department, which increasingly keyed on Patsy Ramsey.
"I'm able to confirm a lot of things that Patsy was maintaining for 10 years," Arndt said.
Asked if what she is writing will eliminate anyone's suspicions about Ramsey, Arndt stopped short of saying so.
"I think our expectation of the justice system is that you clear 'em or you don't, but you don't leave people hanging in the wind this long - at least, that's my interpretation," Arndt said.
"I don't know that (the book) will exonerate. It will give people a context that they have not had before, and it will give them an understanding for everyone involved - but, particularly, for Patsy."
Ramsey hard to reach
National airwaves have been buzzing since Saturday with legal pundits weighing in on the question of how Ramsey's death affects the investigation - whether it represents an ending or perhaps even the opening of a new chapter.
Arndt leans toward the latter.
"I think it's just starting," said Arndt. "I think the real story is just coming out now. . . .
"I think her death really shakes the foundation of what people have been content or comfortable in believing, refusing to accept or refusing to look at."
The mere act of connecting with Ramsey, who along with her husband was identified in December 1997 as being under an "umbrella of suspicion" by then-Boulder Police Chief Mark Beckner, was not easily accomplished by Arndt.
"I contacted every attorney she's ever worked with," she said. "I was willing to contact anyone in order to get a message to her."
Arndt spoke of a bond of trust that evolved between them during her time on the case - cutting against the grain of her department's overall approach.
"I knew that would not be allowed directly during the time that I was on the case, (because of) individuals from both sides. Direct contact between the two of us was never allowed."
During her June 2001 defamation trial at U.S. District Court in Denver, however, Arndt admitted to arranging an hourlong meeting with Ramsey in March 1997, independent of her fellow investigators, after concerns grew about Ramsey's health.
"When Patsy heard I wanted to reach her, every time, she allowed me to meet with her and call her," Arndt said Tuesday.
Despite the renewed contact between Arndt and Ramsey in 2005, the former detective admits she was blindsided by her death.
Not owning a television for the past few months, Arndt got word from her brother, who lives in the Denver area.
"I had no idea" she had taken a turn for the worse, Arndt said. "I knew she was just in Boulder (in February). Different people call and tell me, because I don't follow a lot of it. I was really stunned. I thought she had beaten it again."
Arndt said she would "absolutely" want to attend Thursday's services for Ramsey but she won't.
"Those around her see my presence differently than she does," Arndt said.
"There would be nothing positive for the people assembled there from my presence. Patsy would appreciate it. I doubt anybody else would."
Arndt admitted she doesn't have the answers as to who did what that Christmas night to the 6-year-old who, in death, became the nation's most famous child beauty queen.
"Nobody does," Arndt said. "But I have the information, for somebody else who might. All the information is there."
She said 90 percent of the case details have not been disclosed accurately.
"If anyone wants to understand and make sense of this case, yes, the information I have allows them to do it," Arndt said.
"You can make an informed decision, rather than uninformed speculation."
Who is Linda Arndt?
• On the case: Arndt was left by her colleagues at the Ramsey home with JonBenet's parents and family friends in the first hours of the investigation. She shouldered the blame for numerous police errors at the crime scene that day in December 1996.
• Off the case: Arndt, a 14-year veteran of the Boulder department, well-respected as a staunch victim advocate, was taken off the case in April 1997.
• Against the force: Arndt sued Boulder police brass for defamation, alleging a departmental gag order left her unable to defend herself against accusations that she mishandled the crime scene.
• Off the force: Arndt quit the department in April 1999.
• Afterward: A U.S. district court judge issued a summary judgment against Arndt in a June 2001 trial of her defamation suit. She is now 45, lives outside Colorado and is writing a book.