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My Search for JonBenet Ramsey's Killer – a 15th Anniversary Retrospective
By Jeffrey Scott Shapiro
Published December 26, 2011
Nearly 15 years ago, I was recruited by the Globe tabloid to investigate the murder of JonBenet Ramsey in Boulder, Colorado.
My story was chronicled in Lawrence Schiller’s New York Times bestseller, “Perfect Murder, Perfect Town,” which featured my tale as a cub reporter immersed in the most sensational child murder case in American history.
During my time on the JonBenet Ramsey case, I tracked down the origin of the murder weapon, infiltrated the Ramsey’s church, spent nights tracking intruder suspects, worked for the Boulder Police Department as a confidential informant, had secret conversations with District Attorney Alex Hunter, and made presentations to the F.B.I. I even became acquainted with John and Patsy Ramsey.
For several years, I secretly hoped I could prove the Ramseys were innocent. Not only did I feel compassion for them in the wake of relentless media attacks, my interaction with them forced me to recognize them as real people instead of mere names in newspaper print.
In 2006 however, after Patsy Ramsey died of ovarian cancer
, I came to terms with the fact that the most compelling evidence suggested that she was somehow involved in the death of her daughter – even if it was just an accident covered up to look like an intentional killing.
When the Ramseys woke up the morning of December 26, 1996, they allegedly found a three-page ransom note
left on the spiral staircase of their home demanding the odd sum of $118,000.
It was signed, “Victory! S.B.T.C.”
In my opinion, the handwriting in the ransom note had striking similarities to samples of Patsy’s that I’d collected over the years, and there were also what I considered to be coded messages in the note that had special significance for Patsy.
Many reporters assumed the $118,000 ransom demand was somehow connected to the $118,000 bonus John Ramsey coincidentally received that year from his company, Access Graphics, but what most people do not know is that the number 118 had a sacred meaning to Patsy.
As a devoutly religious woman who had relied on Christian faith healing, two of Patsy’s favorite books on the matter held the key.
In 1994, the Colorado Woman’s Daily did a cover story on Patsy in which she admitted that she was relying on Christian faith healing to overcome her illness. In that article, Patsy said she relied heavily on a spiritual book by Dodie Osteen called, “Healed of Cancer
Osteen wrote in her book that she recited Psalm 118, Verse 17 every night before going to sleep over and over again. It read:
“I shall not die, but live and declare the works of the Lord.”
Patsy’s neighbor, Betty Barnhill referred another book to me that she had loaned Patsy called “Be Healed,” by Marilyn Hickey.
In the second paragraph of the very first page, the author also reiterated the importance of reciting Psalm 118 regularly
It was undeniably clear to me that the number 118 had a deeply profound importance in Patsy’s life, and so the appearance of this odd number in the ransom note was unlikely to be a coincidence.
What was most interesting about Psalm 118 however, was not Verse 17 – it was Verse 27, which read: “Bind the sacrifice with chords unto the horns of the altar.”
When JonBenet was murdered on Christmas night she was struck violently across the head with an unknown blunt instrument and asphyxiated to death with a white, nylon chord, which bound her wrists together.
The ending of the ransom note was signed, “Victory! S.B.T.C.”
Some journalists erroneously believed that phrase was a war reference to John Ramsey’s training in the Philippines
at Subic Bay Naval Base (they believed it could mean Subic Bay Training Center).
During my biblical research however, I learned that the word ‘Victory’ had a very special meaning to some Christians in that it represented Christ’s victory over Satan
According to Patsy’s books, when it came to Christian faith healing, it specifically meant one’s victory over their illness, the cause of which was also believed to be Satan.
In that 1994 magazine article, Patsy appeared on the cover holding a cross hanging from her neck. She told the reporter that her reverend, Rol Hoverstock gave her the cross, and that she believed it saved her life.
I have always, unequivocally believed that the S.B.T.C. acronym meant, “Saved By The Cross.”
I then tried to imagine – if a deeply Christian woman wanted to make it appear that an intruder had killed her daughter on Christmas night, what kind of person would she envision as the killer?
Who would she want to blame it on?
To me, the answer was obvious.
During the 1980’s and 1990’s, many people believed stories about Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA
). Typically, SRA involved the attempted kidnapping of children for sexual molestation and sacrifice, and in some stories, children were strangled or tied up.
SRA proved to be nothing more than media made hype, but it caused a worldwide moral panic
for several years, especially within Christian communities and among parents. It even resulted in false criminal prosecutions such as the California based McMartin pre-school trial
It is my firm belief that JonBenet’s killer was a deeply religious person who was calling out to God for help in a hysterical panic after the little girl died, someone who was trying to convince themselves that Satan was responsible for their actions.
Who would believe such a delusion?
Someone who believed their illness was caused by Satan, someone who read books that blamed every bad worldly occurrence on the dark angel; someone deeply religious who actually believed there were Satanists out there and knew about Satanic Ritual Abuse; someone who thought if they staged the murder to look like a cult killing, police may believe that’s what it was, unaware of the fact that the SRA phenomenon had already been widely discredited within law enforcement circles.
In fact, when police first arrived at the Ramsey house and searched it the morning JonBenet went missing, they found a bible open on John Ramsey's desk open to Psalm 35 -- a passage about being falsely accused of a crime.
I wasn’t the only one who felt that religion somehow played into the cover up of the murder.
Several years after lead detective Steve Thomas publicly professed his unequivocal belief that Patsy was the killer
, another investigator, James Kolar examined the case.
Kolar, concluded that Patsy was the killer because many of the religious statements she made to the media after JonBenet’s death mirrored the types of deeply religious statements Susan Smith made after she killed her own children.
After Kolar made his presentation to Boulder District Attorney Mary Lacy, she did the unthinkable by releasing a written statement
clearing the Ramseys. Lacy however, was not the original district attorney who investigated the crime, Alex Hunter was, and Hunter had always told me in private that he believed Patsy was the only logical suspect – as did almost all my sources in the Boulder Police Department, Colorado Bureau of Investigations and F.B.I.
Shortly after Lacy’s announcement that she exonerated the Ramseys, I wrote a piece for Fox News Opinion explaining why I believed she had made a fatal mistake
. Since her successor Stan Garnett took over, law enforcement officials have resumed investigating their original theory that Patsy was involved.
My translation of the ransom note does not explain everything that happened Christmas night in 1996 at 755 15th Street in Boulder, Colorado. It does not explain the fact that a panel of expert pediatricians told police they believed JonBenet’s hymen demonstrated ongoing, prior, sexual abuse.
It also does not explain away the miniscule foreign DNA that experts found commingled in JonBenet’s blood, located in her underpants – a piece of evidence cherished by intruder theorists who insist it is proof her killer was an intruder.
But as former LAPD Detective Mark Fuhrman
once told me: not everything in a murder case is going to add up. You have to look at the totality of the evidence.
As much as I’d love to believe that DNA was not an unrelated, accidental transfer and that Patsy was completely innocent, I cannot. In addition, I do not believe that any other member of the Ramsey family was involved in JonBenet’s death or the cover up of her murder, because neither proposition is what the totality of the evidence suggests.
Finally, there were personal observations I made that led me to think Patsy could have been involved.
One summer day in 1997 I sat beside the Ramseys in church only a few months after JonBenet’s passing. At one point, the reverend, Rol Hoverstock put his hand on John’s shoulder and compassionately whispered to him, “You’re a good man, John. I know you didn’t do this.”
Minutes later, when he walked by Patsy sitting alone in an empty pew, the two made eye contact, but instead of greeting her as he did John, he angrily looked away and drifted right past her.
That stunned me.
Later, John Ramsey wandered into an empty children’s playroom as if he were collecting memories from his daughter’s past, and Patsy quietly looked at him from a distance, and then burst into tears. I will never know how or why JonBenet’s death began, but I sincerely believe that losing JonBenet brought Patsy excruciating pain. When people have cheered for her prosecution, I have felt compassion for her as well as other family members who have endured this tragedy.
From time to time, I pray for JonBenet, but I have also prayed that Patsy Ramsey’s tired, heartbroken soul has finally found peace on the other side.
Jeffrey Scott Shapiro is an investigative journalist who has researched the JonBenet Ramsey murder case for nearly 15 years.
Hired to investigate the Jonbenet Ramsey murder.... Utter hogwash. He was hired by the tabloid to generate stories that would make their papers leap off the supermarket shelves. And if he had submitted ANY pro Ramsey stories in the early days he would probably have been fired on the spot.
'investigative journalist'..... hah. That is akin to calling that killer/cannibalist a gourmand. He was given a sports car and a high salary but he had job to do and it surely did not involve journalism. Nothing the tabloids published involved journalism.
Journalism is deliberate, evidence-based, logical ... how logical was any of this 'sources close to the investigation say it was due to Patsy being about to turn 40 and killing her daughter because she was too short to ever win the Miss America pageant?
Leave JonBenet Alone
By Jeffrey Scott Shapiro
Published June 10, 2010
Recently, FoxNews.com reported that John Mark Karr
, a cleared suspect in the JonBenet Ramsey murder case and reputed pedophile, was the subject of a new national law enforcement investigation because he’s trying to “create a cult of JonBenet Ramsey lookalikes.”
Tragically, Karr’s sick obsession with JonBenet Ramsey is part of a larger epidemic that started over a decade ago when her murder was highly publicized by the national media.
There are currently over 200,000 Google hits for “JonBenet Ramsey,” a “JonBenet Ramsey News” site with links to multiple discussion forums about the little girl and even a Satanic musical group named after her that sings lyrics about pedophilic sexual molestation.
All of this, coupled with the past 13 years of relentless, tabloid media analysis and baseless theories proposed by so called “experts” who never even worked on the case is the strange undercurrent that came from JonBenet’s death.
It has resulted in the glamorization of one child’s tragic death and transformed her into a poster child for pedophiles, sadomasochists and people obsessed with true crime.
My first observation of this sick phenomenon was in 1997 shortly after I hit the ground in Boulder as a young investigative reporter fresh out of college.
Only a few months after JonBenet’s murder I observed a Denver television network – along with the cooperation of law enforcement – create a false AIM screen-name called “Kid-Love.” After entering a random AOL chat-room, several pedophiles instant messaged the fake profile to discuss their fantasies, and in almost every conversation the name JonBenet surfaced.
Almost no one could believe it, but that was only a miniscule example of what became an online obsession with the little girl.
Soon, more chat rooms were created, even by non-pedophiles – bored housewives playing detective who were disturbingly obsessed with the JonBenet sub-culture and relevant figures in the Ramsey case, especially her family.
With the increase in social utilities like Facebook and Twitter, those online sensations remain, and members of JonBenet’s family are continuously stalked with bits and pieces of their personal lives and whereabouts exposed.
As of late, one chat room was posting pictures of JonBenet’s older brother who was only nine-years old at the time of her death. Now that the young man is graduating from college, some people are determined to stalk him and locate his whereabouts. Their obsession is disgusting, fanatical, insensitive and cruel.
In 1997, then Boulder Police Chief Tom Koby said that he was disappointed the JonBenet Ramsey case had become a curiosity to some people. “Quite frankly, it is a sick curiosity in some ways,” he added at a press conference. At the time, I thought Chief Koby didn’t see the merit in this fascinating and important story that was continuing to unfold in front of us.
Now, 13 years later, I realize that I was the one who didn’t see clearly.
JonBenet’s death was unquestionably a tragedy that warranted journalistic investigation, but it was really only a tragedy felt by those who knew her and loved her. Many of us in the media and in law enforcement who wanted to avenge her legitimately believed we could help, and maybe – maybe – on some level we actually did when our research occasionally helped law enforcement.
Sadly, there’s more to it than that, and I realize that now.
JonBenet was a real person. She was a little girl who lived and loved like the rest of us. She laughed and she cried. She went to school and she played when she got home. She was a real human being.
Millions of Americans however, have turned her into an icon, a symbol, and even a sick, sexualized object of obsession. She has been immortalized within a cult much like the Kennedy assassination, Sharon Tate
murder and the deaths of Jim Morrison and John Lennon
, but in a perverse way.
Just think for one moment how it would feel if your six-year old daughter or sister was brutally tortured, sexually assaulted and murdered – and was then talked about, obsessed over and even sexualized. It’s almost incomprehensible to imagine the pain, heartbreak and outrage the Ramsey family must continue to feel.
For them, the memory of her murder lives on every day of their lives.That’s not fair.
We may not know conclusively who killed JonBenet Ramsey, but we do know that her family members still feel the pain of their loss. The news media has a right and responsibility to continue covering the investigation when there’s valid news, and if the justice system ever determines whom her killer is, that person should be identified and brought to justice if they’re still alive or within law enforcement’s reach.
Other than that however, JonBenet’s family deserves peace and privacy. It’s time to leave JonBenet – and her family alone.
Jeffrey Scott Shapiro is an investigative journalist and former Washington, D.C. prosecutor who has researched and reported the JonBenet Ramsey case for 13 years.
And from December of 2001
The Ghost of Christmas Past
Obsessed Reporter Reveals Dark Under World of Ramsey Case
It was nearly midnight on a warm summer night, May 1998, and the moon was shining brightly above the Flatirons. I quietly stepped out of my Dodge Intrepid, where I had been listening to John Fogerty singing "The Midnight Special."
Around my shoulder was a backpack-filled with a white nylon cord, a roll of black duct tape and a black metal Mag-Lite. The ingredients of the bag were all too familiar to any Boulder cop-the same types of items that may have been used in the murder of 6-year-old JonBenét Ramsey on Dec. 25, 1996.
As an investigative reporter tracking the little girl's killer, I found it helpful to carry such items. I hoped seeing these items would help me think like the killer, enter his mindset and, little by little, understand his personality.
I had developed a cozy professional relationship with Boulder District Attorney Alex Hunter, who allowed me routine access to his office and frequently confided in me his views of the case. The top prosecutor told me he was concerned that the police were too convinced of John and Patsy Ramsey's guilt, and, as a result, no one was chasing other leads. I had already spent a year investigating the Ramseys, working undercover in the family's church, interviewing their friends and even traveling to John Ramsey's hometown to piece together his childhood. I still had my suspicions about Patsy, the former Miss West Virginia, but based on many months of research, I wasn't convinced she could have committed this brutal and ritualistic killing.
But now, I felt I owed it to JonBenét to look elsewhere. My search for her killer led me to isolated cabins burrowed deep in some of Colorado's rockiest canyons, through dark alleyways and into the heart of greater Denver's seedy sexual underground. Little by little, my case files began to shine a light into a dark corner of society that I never knew existed.
My reasons for suspecting an intruder stemmed from a theory developed by Lou Smit, a former Colorado Springs detective. Smit was a veteran homicide investigator who had worked on more than 200 murders over a course of 30 years. Based on several conversations I had with Smit, I was able to piece together what he believed happened that Christmas night when JonBenét was murdered. In time, I drew a mental picture of what could have happened. The following account is speculation, bolstered by my conversations with Smit and other members of the law enforcement community:
While the Ramseys were out having dinner, an intruder stealthily entered their home after removing a grate from a basement window-well in their backyard, and slipped into their home. In my mind, the killer was a young, high-risk pedophile, a social outcast with a God complex who believed he had the divine right to take life. This wouldn't surprise me since the intruder strangled JonBenét Christmas night and used a ransom demand of $118,000. Police thought the amount might be related to Psalm 118, part of which reads: "bind the sacrifice with cords unto the horns of the altar." Within minutes, the intruder began familiarizing himself with the house, perusing books, files and opening closet doors and dresser drawers. He also left an open copy of the Holy Bible on John Ramsey's desk to Psalm 35, a passage about being falsely accused of a crime.
While waiting for the Ramseys to come home, he wrote the infamous three-page ransom note with a Sharpie pen on a pad he found in the house. Then, he patiently waited in a second-floor guest bedroom located above the garage, next to JonBenét's bedroom. When the family arrived home at 10 p.m., the intruder hid under the bed and waited for the family to go to sleep. Then, he entered JonBenet's bedroom and attacked her with a stun gun on her back, then carried her downstairs.
On the way downstairs, he left the three-page ransom note on the steps. Before going into the basement, the intruder noticed an alarm panel with its lights on. Knowing that the alarm could be wired to any door or window in the house except the one he'd already come through, he carried JonBenét back to the basement. Once there, he tried stuffing JonBenet into a large hard suitcase he found so he could take her away without anyone seeing her. However, the suitcase didn't fit through the window, and the intruder couldn't get through the grate while carrying the little girl in his arms. Knowing he couldn't take JonBenét with him without exiting from upstairs and risking the alarm sounding, the intruder decided to sexually molest her in the basement of her own home.
Using a package of white nylon cord and a roll of black duct tape he'd brought with him, the intruder silenced JonBenét and bound her in a ritualistic choke-chain-like garrote, which enabled him to suffocate her, if necessary. He then tied the white cord to the paintbrush handle he'd broken into three separate parts. The intruder then sexually penetrated the six-year old with the sharp end of the paintbrush handle.
Then, perhaps to satisfy his own bloodlust or simply silence her, the intruder stunned JonBenét on her face to incapacitate her and then strangled her. While struggling to breathe, JonBenét clawed at the rope, which explains the deep fingernail marks on her neck. Before she could get free, the intruder struck her across the head with an aluminum baseball bat which police found on the north side of the house. The killer then left the house through the basement window, perhaps using the suitcase as a step-up to the window well.
Police never found the roll of tape, the remainder of the cord or the sharp end of the paintbrush handle. They did, however, find an unidentified palm print on the door to the windowless room where JonBenét's body was discovered the next morning, as well as a boot-print from his climbing boots inside the room.
Despite her massive head wound, JonBenét barely bled. In addition, she had petechiae, indicating she had been strangled. Blood vessels underneath her eyes had ruptured, telling Smit she'd been unable to breathe at the time she was hit in the head. To Smit, this was proof the garrote had been around JonBenét's neck first, suggesting the murder had been premeditated. Since the FBI had no record on file of a parent ever killing a child with a garrote, Smit believed an intruder-a fantasy stalker-had committed the crime.
Perhaps the most compelling evidence of an intruder was the foreign DNA commingled in her vaginal blood. It was a minuscule amount, but its "markers" matched those found in skin tissue under JonBenét's fingernails on both of her hands. Had JonBenét clawed her assailant while trying to break free from the garrote?
When Hunter first suggested I search for intruders, there were scant leads. Some involved former Access Graphics employees and others were just strange figures in the bizarre world of child pageantry. To date, the Boulder Police Department has considered 140 different people as possible suspects in the little girl's murder. With exception of the Ramsey children, says Boulder Police Chief Mark Beckner, nobody has been formally cleared.
To acknowledge the fifth anniversary of JonBenét's death, the city distributed a press release with statistics about the $1.7 million investigation. It mentions 140 "possible suspects" who've been interviewed to date. What it doesn't convey are the macabre circumstances that link some of those 140 people to the investigation.
Investigating and interviewing some of the more intriguing people on that list, I learned some amazing things that changed the way I view life. What follows is a sampling of what I found:
Among the first "possible suspects" I studied was "The Prophet."
I had learned of The Prophet from an e-mail he sent his friends about how the Boulder police came to his apartment in 1997 to confiscate his Hi-Tec boots, a Sharpie marker and a stun gun-three things possibly used in JonBenét's murder.
The CU student came under investigation after police found his Internet site-a series of essays about sadomasochism, which included an instructional piece about Japanese bondage and how to tie complex knots.
On the website, known as "Wide Awake," The Prophet had posted a self-authored essay called "Barbie Doll, The Ultimate Fuck." His essay chronicled the sexual torture of Barbie in an extremely sadistic, vicious manner. When John Ramsey found JonBenét, the killer had left the girl's Barbie doll nightgown beside her.
Few people around town knew The Prophet. But during his college years, the manager of a local diner allowed him to hang a mobile of naked Barbie dolls from the restaurant's ceiling. As I was investigating The Prophet in the summer of 1998, I found a similar doll in the Ramsey's front yard, stuffed inside a tiny white sandal. I wondered if the shoe had once belonged to JonBenét. The blonde doll had a little white rope around her neck and a red spot marked on her gown by her vaginal area. I immediately called the police who collected the item into evidence.
In his book Mindhunter, former FBI profiler John Douglas-who was employed by the Ramsey's to profile the killer-described men who torture Barbie dolls and predicted they would eventually advance to torturing small, helpless girls.
The Prophet's Internet site featured strange graphics, with a variety of different kinds of hearts. Some hearts had spikes coming out of them. I recalled that when JonBenet's body was found, a small shape like a red heart had been drawn on her left hand.
So I decided to knock on The Prophet's apartment door in order to discuss these issues. A student told me the previous tenant moved to San Francisco. Today, The Prophet lives and works in Denver and remains among the ranks of the city's 140 "possible suspects."
The Chase Case
Four days shy of the first anniversary of JonBenet's death, CU student Susannah Chase was found dead on a Boulder sidewalk. She had been murdered while walking home from the Pearl Street Mall on Dec. 21, 1997. I knew from my conversations with John Ramsey that he suspected his daughter's murderer had also killed Chase, since they were both struck fatally in the head around Christmas time. In fact, Chase had been struck with an aluminum baseball bat.
Not long after the Chase murder, I would learn of a man known as "The Warrior"-an American Indian who had studied political science at the University of Colorado at the time of Chase's murder. The Warrior was a tall, violent young man who had nearly killed his mother in Virginia by striking her across the head with a shotgun. Police stumbled across The Warrior when someone filed ethnic intimidation charges against him for leaving a threatening, anti-Semitic message on an answering machine. "I will find you," The Warrior said. "Do you hear me? Do you understand me? I will steal your breath from you."
Police became concerned when they went into the bedroom of his apartment and found it wallpapered with hundreds of news clippings from the Chase and Ramsey murders.
A judge issued an order to have DNA samples taken from The Warrior. The order recounted information The Warrior's roommate had told investigators. The roommate told investigators that The Warrior had made a bumper sticker that stated: "I killed her." The roommate reportedly asked The Warrior, "Which one-Susannah Chase or JonBenét Ramsey?" The Warrior replied, "Either, or."
I was looking forward to meeting The Warrior when I received a disappointing call from one of my colleagues, Matt Sebastian-who was the lead police reporter for the Boulder Daily Camera. Sebastian, who himself was hot on the trail of The Warrior, told me that The Warrior had an air-tight alibi in the Chase case-namely, proof that he was out of state at the time of her death.
As suspicion surrounding The Warrior waned, I became aware of another CU student who was finding himself under the umbrella of suspicion surrounding JonBenét and Chase. Matthew Falcon came under scrutiny by police after he was arrested in connection with a vicious assault. He had asked a young woman for directions, then struck her across the head with a metal rod, causing her to stumble and fall. When she came to, Falcon apologized and asked the woman if she was OK. When the woman nodded and asked him the same question, Falcon shook his head. "No. Run while you still can," he warned her. Police quickly located the man and charged him with assault. He was considered a suspect in the Chase case, but was eventually cleared.
I was sitting inside my Pearl Street apartment looking through my case files when I got a curious call from a Boulder detective asking me for information.
"Do you know where we could find Charles Kuralt?" he asked, referring to the revered TV journalist.
His question related to a new lead that had developed regarding Bill "Santa" McReynolds. Most in Boulder knew McReynolds-a white-bearded, pot-bellied former professor of journalism at CU who enjoyed playing Santa during his retirement.
McReynolds had played Santa at the Ramsey's Christmas parties in the past. Patsy had planned to cancel that year's Christmas party since she was exhausted from her recent 40th birthday bash at the Brown Palace Hotel. But that all changed after McReynolds told Patsy that Kuralt's crew had contacted him. Kuralt was doing a show on men who play Santa, and if Patsy was willing to have the party, he could produce Kuralt on her front doorstep.
Despite the fact that Patsy had the party on Dec. 23, Kuralt bowed out after getting tired of following McReynolds during the daytime. Later, the Ramseys wondered if McReynolds used the Kuralt story as a way to see JonBenét at the Christmas party.
McReynolds was linked to some other strange phenomena that landed him a prime spot under the umbrella of suspicion:
A friend of the Ramseys told police JonBenét had confided in her that Santa promised her a special visit after Christmas was over.
His own 9-year-old daughter, Jill, had been kidnapped by a sexual predator on Dec. 26, 1974. Jill and her friend were eventually brought home. Jill had escaped violence, but her friend, who was sexually molested, had not. The assailant was never found.
Janet McReynolds, a.k.a. Mrs. Claus, had written a play in 1976 called Hey Rube, about a girl adopted by foster parents who sexually abused her in a basement cellar. The play was a flop, but it didn't stop Boulder police from passing out copies to the Ramsey investigative team.
McReynolds loved JonBenet. His fireplace was littered with photographs of her. When Newsweek reporter Dan Glick visited McReynolds at his Nederland home, McReynolds showed him a small wooden harp with the names of dead children carved on it's side. When McReynolds held the harp up, he shared a small secret with the veteran reporter, who later shared it with me.
"I've saved a small place right here for JonBenét's name," McReynolds told Glick.
Police were suspicious of McReynolds, but with no hard evidence the search continued. McReynolds, tired of public scrutiny about his connection to the Ramseys, fled Boulder with his wife and moved to Illinois.
One day, I got a tip with new information regarding a man I'd met months before-Chris Wolf.
I didn't know it at the time, but recent information indicates he may have known McReynolds while studying at the University of Colorado-despite claims by each man that they've never known each other. Chris Wolf was a local reporter whose girlfriend, Jacqueline Dilson, had accused him of killing both JonBenét Ramsey and Susannah Chase. I initially met with Wolf in the fall of 1997 to tell him what I had learned, although he had a difficult time accepting the fact his own girlfriend was the tipster who caused his most recent ordeals.
Despite his reputation for being somewhat aggressive and argumentative, I sensed a deep sadness within Wolf that often made me feel sorry for him.
He had traveled throughout the United States and Latin America, where he quickly bonded with poverty-stricken peasants and adopted an anti-imperialist political view on the world. Eventually, he moved to Boulder where he earned a master's degree in journalism at CU and went on to work as a mountain climbing instructor for Outward Bound, an outdoor confidence building program.
Later, Wolf worked at various local newspapers as a reporter, where he sometimes engaged in passionate arguments with his co-workers about politics. Wolf had a peculiar past-including a history of working as a male stripper and a 1992 indecent exposure charge to which he pleaded guilty. These facts were revealed by Wolf just recently during a deposition by lawyers for the Ramsey's, who are defending the couple against a libel suit filed by Wolf. Wolf is suing the Ramseys because they named him as prime suspect in their book The Death of Innocence.
Wolf became a surprising suspect in the JonBenét case when Dilson told police only two weeks after JonBenét's murder that Wolf had disappeared the night JonBenét was killed. She told police Wolf was wearing a tennis club-style sweatshirt, which said "Santa Barbara." Since the supposed foreign faction claiming responsibility for JonBenét's kidnapping in the ransom note identified itself as "SBTC," Dilson wondered if it stood for "Santa Barbara Tennis Club."
Dilson also claimed:
She saw a package of cord on his dresser.
He owned mountain climbing boots.
He often expressed hostile emotions when talking about John Ramsey and Access Graphics' parent company, Lockheed Martin, which he believed was responsible for exploiting third-world countries.
She awoke in the early morning hours of Dec. 26 to find Wolf with mud on the Santa Barbara sweatshirt and a pair of black jeans. When she asked where he'd been, he grew angry with her.
There was one other interesting possible connection. Wolf worked as a reporter for the Boulder County Business Report at the time of JonBenét's murder. I learned that police had found an issue of the newspaper in the Ramsey house, which featured a story about John Ramsey. There was a heart drawn around Ramsey's picture and on the inside of the issue was a separate story, written by Wolf. It sounded like a strange coincidence, nothing more.
Nevertheless, I was intrigued enough to visit Dilson. She allowed me to read Wolf's journals. As I read about his journeys in El Salvador, I realized that Wolf's Marxist viewpoints were strikingly similar to the politics expressed in the ransom note.
Wolf had previously said that before JonBenet's murder, he'd never even heard of Ramsey's company, Access Graphics. But based on his reporting notes, he actually interviewed a company spokeswoman there several months before the murder took place. Had he simply forgotten? Perhaps. Reporters don't remember many of the stories they write, especially the softer features.
Later, when I was examining Wolf's boots, Dilson approached me.
"Can you feel it?" she asked me. I nodded slowly. I felt something-my heart was pounding, and little by little I began to feel like I was getting closer. Perhaps an intruder had killed JonBenet, but two important facts seemed to work in defense of Wolf:
Handwriting experts in New York said he was not the author of the ransom note. His climbing boots were Danner's, not Hi-Tec, like the print at the Ramsey house.
My suspicion of Wolf resurfaced briefly when his ex-roommate told me he had once tried to date Susannah Chase. He later told Boulder Weekly Editor Wayne Laugesen he was friends with Susannah Chase, and often visited the woman at a health food store where she worked as a clerk. When Boulder police asked me if I thought Wolf had killed Chase, I told them I didn't. Eventually, Wolf was cleared in the Chase murder after I convinced him to cooperate with authorities by giving them his DNA.
As I wrestled with my personal investigation of Wolf, I heard about "Boots." Once upon a time, Boots lived with a local woman and her 4-year-old blonde daughter, until the two had an explosive argument that led to their break-up. The woman accused the man of masturbating under his blanket while her daughter was sitting on his bed. Boots lived in a small shack at a local junkyard on Valmont Road, where he also worked.
On Feb. 13, 1997, DA Hunter had a press conference in order to send a message to JonBenet's unknown killer: "You will pay for what you have done, and we have no doubt this will happen." The next day, Valentine's Day, Boots was found dead in his apartment. Supposedly, he had killed himself with a shotgun. Immediately, he became another "possible suspect"-albeit a dead one-in the Ramsey murder.
But the theory that JonBenét's killer got spooked and took his life had a gaping hole in it: The suicide began to look like a murder. Boots was right-handed and the bullet's trajectory went from left to right. In addition, someone had placed a pillow in front of his chest before firing the gun, something professional killers do to muffle the noise of a gunshot. In addition, Boots was a former military sharpshooter and parachutist who had been trained to use an M16 Rifle and hand grenades. I wondered: If Boots was a sharpshooter, why the odd trajectory?
When police took crime scene photos at Boots' apartment, two items grabbed their attention. Not only was there a pair of Hi-Tec climbing boots by the dead man's feet, there was a stun gun beside his hand and a Taser in the distance. Supposedly, Boots also owned a baseball cap with the letters "SBTC" on it. Later, a friend of Boots found a videotape in the dead man's apartment that intrigued police. It was footage of a newscast from a couple of years before. The news story featured an unsolved case involving a kidnapped and murdered 6-year-old girl. Was the newscast a random recording left behind by someone else? Or was it a trophy of some kind?
Since the ransom note refers to at least two other kidnappers, Lou Smit believes it's possible more than one person was involved. It was strange that some of the exact items used in JonBenet's attack had been found next to his body. Had the second kidnapper killed his ex-partner hoping to get police detectives off his trail? If so, his ploy failed. Even though Smit and I found the Boots' story compelling, Boulder police weren't biting-at least not hard.
"Thomas Aquinas" was a transient. A paranoid schizophrenic who collected his mail at the St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church on 14th Street, only a block from the Ramsey home. Oregon law enforcement authorities say he tried to strangle his mother, and he managed to make Oregon's registered sex offender list in 1991 for molesting a young girl. He later spent time in a mental health facility.
Eventually, the disturbed man found his way to Boulder and fell under suspicion after Boulder police learned he had broken into a building at CU. Looking through the transient's backpack, police found a stun gun and a poem he'd written about JonBenét and Susannah Chase.
Eventually, I learned that Aquinas and I had crossed paths at JonBenét's home during a one-year anniversary vigil for the girl. Photographs taken by private investigators working for the Ramseys revealed that Aquinas was in the front row, holding a folder sealed tightly with a strip of smooth, black duct tape. Authorities seem to have lost track of Aquinas, and at least one private investigator working on the case says he'd love to find the man. Kidnapping kits
Since I began working on JonBenét's murder five years ago, I've encountered many people who ask me the same thing when I espouse the intruder theory. "But who would try to kidnap a little girl like that?"
I tell them about Gary Dale Cox in Texas. I read about Cox, suspected serial child abductor in the Fort Worth area, in the Houston Chronicle. Cox, the newspaper reported, killed himself after police began closing in on him. In his trailer and car were an abundance of duct tape and cord as well as a stun gun. It dawned on me: The items used in JonBenét's murder could almost be considered a standard kit used by serial child kidnappers and pedophiles.
I often reflect on my conversations with Alex Hunter, whom I credit with having had the courage to resist public pressure to indict the Ramseys. Hunter knew there wasn't enough evidence to try the Ramseys or anyone else at the time. "I think there's more to this than we realize," Hunter once told me. "We owe it to that little girl to find the truth-no matter what it costs."
Like some police and private investigators, I have made a personal commitment to continue investigating this case until it is solved. And I firmly believe it will be solved. If I never know the identity of JonBenét's killer, I will know this as a result of my pursuit of him: People are strange. Society is strange. And truth is so much stranger than fiction.
Originally published in The Boulder Weekly - Dec. 20, 2001
Yesterday, 11:03 AM
(This post was last modified: Yesterday, 11:22 AM by jameson245.)
OK, so I remember most of the names - but not all.
The Prophet was Michael McElroy (rumored to be dead but I have no real evidence that is true.)
Falcon is Matthew Falcon, named by Jeff in his article.
Santa is Bill McReynolds.
Wolf is Chris Wolf
Boots is Helgoth
The Saint is Gary Oliva
But who was the Warrior? So I asked and the answer is Stephen Lone Eagle. So now we know.
It is no secret that I know Jeff, have for years. We have spent time together, firmly standing on opposite sides of the fence most of the time.
I am not going to defend his position but will say when he was a tabloid reporter he was little more than a kid. He was working on one of the hottest cases in the WORLD and his ego was blooming. But he didn't like the stories he was pressured to write and ultimately he betrayed his employers and exposed them and their practices. You can say that was easy because he got lots of high-fives - - but let me tell you, when he was alone after the story was done, he was in a singular place and hardly feeling high on life. He dmitted feeling ashamed for many things he did. (But not for accusing Patsy of hurting his daughter. I think his friendship with Steve Thomas has always been the trump card there.)
Anyway, I am writing this post to say I disagree on case with Jeff BUT recognize he has what could be very valuable information about Boulder, the city, the people, the evidence, the investigation. I hope we can all get by his tabloid days and.....
If he decides to join us here, I hope he is welcomed as a man, a lawyer now, who shares our addiction to this subject.