on holding the body
#1
Coroner: police tried to keep body to force interview
Tests on JonBenet were complete
By CLAY EVANS Camera Staff Writer
Friday, April 25, 1997
Boulder police investigators asked the Boulder County coroner's office if it could withhold the body of 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey from her family - even though forensic work was complete - to pressure them into submitting to a police interview, Coroner John Meyer confirmed Thursday.
Meyer, a physician who was legal custodian of the girl's body following her murder and an autopsy, and the only official who could sanction release, refused the police request. JonBenet's body was released to her family Dec. 29, then flown to Georgia for burial.
The request from investigators came through Tom Faure, chief medical examiner for the coroner's office, on Dec. 28, Meyer said.
"My impression at the time was it was sort of a trial balloon, wondering if we could do that," Meyer said. "It was, could we do this ... not necessarily to force the family, but could we put a hold on the body until they do come to an interview."
JonBenet Ramsey was found strangled in the basement of her family's home the afternoon of Dec. 26 by her father, John Ramsey, and a family friend. About eight hours earlier, her mother, Patsy Ramsey, found a ransom note demanding $118,000 and called police.
John and Patsy Ramsey still have not been formally inter viewed by police, but their attorneys said Wednesday that police on Tuesday abruptly canceled separate interviews scheduled for Wednesday.
After receiving the inquiry about holding the body, Meyer told Faure that "certainly I didn't think that was a reason for me to put the body on further hold, that I couldn't use that as justification."
Meyer said the examination of the girl's body was complete, except for toxicology reports, which take up to six weeks for results. He said, however, that his office routinely holds the bodies of homicide victims from 24 to 72 hours after an autopsy is complete, "in case anything comes up."
Police on Wednesday said they were "reluctant to release JonBenet's body because they were not sure all the necessary forensic work had been completed, nor had they had an opportunity to discuss the circumstances of JonBenet's death with the parents."
Boulder Police Chief Tom Koby did not immediately return telephone calls from the Daily Camera on Thursday.
District Attorney Alex Hunter said Thursday there may have been other considerations that led police to ask the body be withheld for additional time.
"For example, was there everything that the CBI (Colorado Bureau of Investigation) needed? Had a pediatrician been involved? A child abuse expert involved?" Hunter said. He said that, all told, the body underwent about 12 hours of examination.
In a telephone conversation the afternoon of Dec. 28, the district attorney's chief trial deputy, Peter Hofstrom, asked Meyer if there was any medical reason to retain custody of the body.
"I told him no," Meyer said. He said he had decided to release the body on Dec. 29, before investigators made their inquiry.
But Meyer said Thursday he believes police investigators "have been doing the best they can" with the 4-month-old case. He also noted the investigators' request did not hold up the release of the body in any way.
Attorney Saskia Jordan, who works for the firm of Haddon, Morgan and Foreman, which is representing John Ramsey, said she accompanied her client to the Boulder County Justice Center on Dec. 28 to provide hair and handwriting samples when she first heard that police wanted to withhold the body.
"At no time when I got there was I told that it had anything to do with a medical or forensic reason," she said. "I was told they would not release the body until they got an interview."
Jordan faults the Boulder Police Department for the situation.
"The D.A.'s office and the coroner did everything they could to do the right thing," she said, "to dissuade the police from ransoming the body."
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#2
To be honest, if there was good reason to hold the body, I would WANT them to do that. But there is no evidence the coroner believed that.

In the end, hindsight being 20/20, maybe it would have been a good idea because if this obviously UNIQUE crime had caused the authorities to be extra careful, called in a group of coroners to examine the unidentified marks on her body (the fingernail marks above and below the ligature on her neck as well as the stun gun wounds) there might not be a question about the use of a stun gun or the timeline of the injuries the poor child sustained.
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