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CBI lab picks its way through the clues
Camera Staff Writer
Thursday, January 9, 1997
DENVER -- In a dim room on the fourth floor of the Colorado Bureau of Investigation building, Alex Rugh turns down the brightness on the monitor of his scanning electron microscope until only a single green dot appears on the screen.
He zooms in on the dot - a metal fragment one thousandth the thickness of a dime - and presses a button. On a second monitor to his right, a color display produces a graph that within seconds tells him all the elements that make up the fragment.
Iron, potassium, calcium - it's no bullet fragment. They have lead, barium and antimony - and bullets are the only things in the world that would have all three elements in a single micron sample.
Rugh is one of 22 analysts at the CBI laboratory, which is processing much of the physical evidence in the investigation of JonBenet Ramsey's murder.
Much of the Ramsey investigation hinges on results from the CBI lab. Boulder detectives sent hair, blood and handwriting samples from Ramsey family members and some undisclosed friends, along with many pieces of undisclosed evidence from searches of the Ramsey homes, to the lab last week. University of Colorado evidence and criminal law professor Mimi Wesson said forensic evidence can be crucial. "If you don't have witnesses and you don't have a confession, physical evidence is all you have. So of course it's tremendously important."
The CBI processes evidence for many departments throughout the state, which, like Boulder, aren't big enough to have complete labs.
During a murder investigation, it is not uncommon for the CBI to process about 80 pieces of evidence, said Chester Ubowski, the agent in charge of the laboratory and a forensic documents specialist. That evidence could range from articles of clothing to spent bullet shells to ransom notes.
The forensics lab includes several divisions. The documents division examines written or printed documents and conducts handwriting analysis. Serology conducts analysis of blood, hair and fibers. Chemistry examines drugs and chemical properties of materials. Other analysts test DNA and firearms.
Many pieces of evidence require testing by more than one division. For example, a note might be examined for handwriting in documents, but might also contain hair fibers or bodily fluids to be analyzed in serology, Ubowski said.
But the forensics are only as good as the evidence gathered at the crime scene, CU's Wesson said: "You have to assume that the sample that you find is fresh enough and large enough."
The science of forensics is based on a simple law called "Locard's Principle of Exchange."
"Any time two things come into contact, there is an exchange of material between them," said Ubowski.
He wiped his finger across the glass surface of his desk to demonstrate. "I have left skin cells on the desk," said Ubowski. "I may have left enough for identification."
On his finger, he explained, there are now glass ions from the desk. "I may not be able to find them, but they're there," said Ubowski. "In that sense, there may not be such a thing as the perfect crime. Because if you were there, you left something."
Finding what was left behind can be a slow, meticulous process. A case like the Ramsey murder, which involves many forensic disciplines, typically takes a month, Ubowski said. DNA evidence takes two weeks to process - and that's only after other tests and prep work have been performed on the sample.
On the other hand, some evidence, such as simple blood analysis, could be returned to the local department in a week, Ubowski said.
Forensic evidence requires something to com pare it to, Ubowski explained. For instance, a sample of blood found at a crime scene would be compared to blood taken from a suspect. DNA testing cannarrow the field to only a handful of people.
Jurors tend to put more faith in evidence that's most easily understood, such as fingerprints and handwriting analysis, even though DNA testing can be more accurate, Wesson said.
"Even though there may be more art to it and less science, sometimes jurors will put more stock in it than they will in, for example DNA testing," she said. "Jurors tend to be suspicious of things they don't understand and DNA evidence is hard to understand."
It takes only a bit of organic evidence to make a match. Trace amounts of blood, skin, semen and other bodily fluids can be "grown" in a laboratory by a process called "polymerase chain reaction," in which the sample is basically cloned by separating its DNA.
While blood evidence is the most revealing, for most people, blood is not necessary for DNA analysis if other bodily fluids are available. Sources close to the Ramsey investigation say bodily fluids were found near the dead girl's body.
Document analysis is less straightforward. A forensic documents analyst doesn't simply analyze the handwriting.
"They look at all the facets involved in the communication," said Ubowski.
In the Ramsey case, investigators reportedly found the notepad used to write a ransom note and a "practice" note written with a similar pen in the Ramsey home. Sources say the draft and the actual ransom note were "written kind of in shaky handwriting," and that both notes were written with a similar felt-tip pen.
For a handwritten note, the ink is analyzed, as is the paper it's written on. The document is inspected for foreign materials - hair, fiber, spilled coffee or even bodily fluids can be collected and sent to the serology lab for analysis. The document is then inspected for tears or other distinguishing marks. Scientists examine it with lasers and infrared light, searching for clues.
Sometimes the most important clues are not found in the actual writing but in indentation marks on the paper.
If someone tries to fake their handwriting on a note, the CBI usually can tell. The only way a perpetrator could leave no indication of their natural handwriting is by using a stencil - and even that could leave a clue, such as whether the person used a similar stencil at work.
Like all forensic evidence, handwriting evidence requires a sample to match it to. Just like blood evidence would be matched to a suspect's blood or a spent bullet would be matched to a bullet fired through a suspect's gun, the handwriting on the note is compared to a suspect's writing.
Despite the intense media and public interest in the Ramsey investigation, the CBI contends evidence from that case is no different from evidence it gets every day.
"It's easy to forget that even though the Ramsey case has gotten some national notoriety," Ubowski said, "we've got a dozen other murder cases pending."
Cops await Ramsey CBI results in silence
Lab tests in murder case not due for several weeks
Camera Staff Writer

Friday, January 17, 1997

Few details surrounding the murder of JonBenet Ramsey emerged Thursday, as police await the return of tests of handwriting, blood and hair samples from the Ramsey family and close friends.

"There have been rumors flying around that we've gotten some things back from (the Colorado Bureau of Investigation), but we haven't," a source said. "We need to get them, and we're talking to people about the case every day."

Meanwhile, police still have not interviewed JonBenet's parents, John, president of Access Graphics, and Patsy, a former Miss West Virginia.

"That's something that's never been ruled out," said Pat Korten, the Ramsey's media consultant. "It's always been a matter of attorneys deciding if, when, where, how and under which circumstances the interview could occur in a way that serves everyone's needs but protects the clients' interests."

The Ramseys hired attorneys a few days after John found the former Little Miss Colorado strangled in the basement of the family's home at 755 15th St. on Dec. 26.

In other developments:

Investigators found blood on JonBenet's lower body, sources said. In addition to being strangled, the girl was sexually assaulted and her skull was crushed.

"It looks like it's (the blood) from the crime," said a source close to the investigation. "There is a definite possibility that that fluid and others at the scene were not just hers."

The Boulder County Coroner's Office has not completed JonBenet's autopsy report. "It could take up to several weeks," said chief medical

investigator Tom Faure. "We're waiting for lab results."

Officials Thursday disputed a recent media report claiming the Boulder Police Department has narrowed the list of suspects to seven. "(Boulder Police Chief) Tom Koby has said that not as many people are being looked at as when the crime first happened," a source said. "But it's false that there are only seven people that are being investigated. There are a lot of things that have not been ruled out."

Police may receive handwriting sample test results from the family and others on Jan. 25., officials said. On average, DNA tests take 42 days to finish, according to CBI Director Carl Whiteside. Officials may conclude the tests in early February.

The Globe tabloid Thursday returned crime scene photos of JonBenet to Boulder County officials. On Wednesday, authorities arrested two Boulder men in connection with the sale of the pictures.

The Boulder County Sheriff's Department also may arrest another participant in the crime within the next several weeks, sources said.

(LIE ALERT - They already had some of the DNA info back and knew the golden standard DNA found in her blood fronm the sexual assault CLEARED the Ramseys.)
CBI won't delay processing clues in Ramsey case
Camera Staff Writer

Wednesday, January 29, 1997

The Colorado Bureau of Investigation won't delay processing DNA evidence in the JonBenet Ramsey murder investigation, officials said Tuesday.

A state law requiring authorities to give defendants an opportunity to monitor testing or conduct their own examinations only applies if police name a suspect, said CBI Director Carl Whiteside. A published report Tuesday said CBI may wait to test fluid found on the 6-year-old's body because the small amount might prevent compliance with that law.

"We conduct whatever tests are necessary in order to properly analyze the evidence," Whiteside said.

On average, DNA tests take about 42 days, Whiteside said.

Police began collecting such evidence after John Ramsey, the girl's father, and a friend found the former Little Miss Colorado strangled in the basement of the Ramseys' home at 755 15th St. on Dec. 26.

In other developments Tuesday:

Police said a man called Access Graphics about 1:50 p.m. Friday and threatened John Ramsey, president of the Boulder-based computer distribution business, and other employees.

According to the police report, the caller told the receptionist: "You (expletive expletive), if you let that (expletive) child molester back on Monday, you're all dead."

The company has received several suspicious calls, including those from callers with voices "like the suspect," the report said.

But other callers did not threaten the business, said com pany spokeswoman Laurie Wagner.

"We've gotten dozens of calls supporting John Ramsey, and a few calls have not been supportive," Wagner said, adding that Ramsey will not return to his job this week.

The company has taken additional safety measures such as security training and providing employees with security access badges, the report said.

Boulder police continued to await CBI test results of handwriting, hair and blood samples of the Ramseys, several friends and others.

Some investigators questioned the purity of evidence collected at the crime scene.

"I don't know how good it (the evidence) is, if for some reason John disturbed some of it by bringing JonBenet upstairs," a source close to the investigation said.

But Mimi Wesson, a law professor at the University of Colorado and a former federal prosecutor, offered a different view.

"Those are legitimate concerns, but not unique to this case," she said. "The essence of every defense is that the evidence doesn't prove what the prosecution says it proves."

All evidence has imperfections, Wesson noted.

"The law doesn't require proof to perfection, but proof beyond a reasonable doubt," she said. "Every piece of physical evidence is always altered, if (by) nothing else, then by the simple passage of time and by exposure to the environment, however controlled."

John Douglas - the former FBI profiler hired by the Ramseys - said in a "Dateline NBC" interview he does not believe either of the Ramseys killed their daughter.

Douglas said he talked with the couple for about four or five hours. He called Ramsey "one hell of a liar," if he committed the crime. "I just don't believe in my heart he did this," Douglas said.
DNA evidence is delivered to facility used in O.J. trial
Camera Staff Writer

February 14, 1997

Boulder police announced Thursday they have sent DNA evidence from the JonBenet Ramsey investigation to Cellmark Diagnostics, the Maryland lab that analyzed DNA evidence in the O.J. Simpson criminal case.

Cellmark, the largest non-government forensic DNA lab in the United States, has analyzed thousands of samples from criminal and paternity cases. The company is based in Germantown, Md. Cellmark gained international attention when Simpson's lawyers challenged the lab's handling of blood evidence in the criminal murder trial.

Deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, is a cellular material that is the basis for heredity. It is unique in everyone and is found in blood and often in other bodily fluids.

Christopher Mueller, a civil law and evidence professor at the University of Colorado who followed the Simpson case closely, said that since Cellmark is a private company, it means the testing will be treated as independent from law enforcement agencies. He added that Cellmark does its tests "blind" so the analysts don't know what case the evidence is from, which helps give the analysis credibility.

"It helps allay suspicion that mistakes were made or that the tests were somehow rigged," he said.

Boulder officials sent all the DNA evidence analyzed by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation to Cellmark for more testing.

Richard Kling, a forensic expert and law professor at Chicago-Kent School of Law, said he wasn't sure why the police would ask for further testing. "My gut is either that (the CBI test) was inconclusive or they didn't like the results," Kling said.

Cellmark handles about 2,000 cases a year, about 75 percent of those for the prosecution, said Mark Stolorow, director of operations. He said the fastest turnaround time on a test is about two weeks.

Since its founding in 1987, Cellmark also has worked with the Pentagon to help recover DNA evidence from terrorist-related cases and has used DNA analysis to identify military casualties for the U.S. armed forces in Operation Desert Storm.

Associated Press and Camera staff writer Elliot Zaret contributed to this report.
Firm begins DNA tests in JonBenet homicide
Camera Staff Writer
April 4, 1997
Cellmark Diagnostics began DNA testing on evidence in the JonBenet Ramsey homicide this week, city spokeswoman Leslie Aaholm said Thursday.
Results of the tests at the private Maryland lab may take six weeks to be finalized, Aaholm added.
"The Colorado Bureau of Investigation completed three of those tests, and now Cellmark is doing this other level of testing," she said. "It's my assumption that Cellmark would be the concluding testing agency."
One hundred days after John Ramsey and a friend discovered his 6-year-old daughter strangled in the basement of the Ramseys' Boulder home, police have not made any arrests or named any suspects in the slaying.
"(These) kinds of cases do take a long time. It has taken a long time. And I would suggest that it will continue to take a long time," Aaholm said. "I would not characterize it as a lack of urgency or a lack of interest in the case."
Boulder police and the district attorney's office continue to review thousands of pages of material gathered during the investigation, pursue leads, conduct interviews and await test results, Aaholm said.
"It is difficult for the public, and for all of us, to understand the intricacies of an investigation," she said. "It's a circumstantial case ... where you rely on evidence because nobody witnessed the crime, at least that we're aware of. We're not going to rush forward until we have all the information."
The Ramseys, however, have expressed discontent as authorities search for clues.
"John and Patsy are enormously frustrated," said Hal Haddon, of Haddon, Morgan & Foreman, the Denver-based law firm representing John Ramsey, in a statement issued through a spokeswoman.
Nevertheless, investigators have not scheduled an interview with the couple. "We have made several offers that the Boulder Police Department (is) considering," said family spokeswoman Rachelle Zimmer.
In other developments Thursday:
Ramsey spokesmen continue to dispute reports that the parents interfered with DNA testing. The disagreement began after Boulder County District Attorney Alex Hunter's recent offer to allow Ramsey representatives to monitor DNA exams at Cellmark.
"It is unfair and wrong to attribute any delay to us," Zimmer said. "The lab technician who does this testing was on vacation until now."
Aaholm offered another view.
"The testing was delayed until a final decision was made concerning whether or not the Ramseys would have anyone present," she said. "The availability of Cellmark personnel was not a factor in the testing or the delay of the testing."
Aaholm said the city will stop holding weekly scheduled news briefings. "Should there be a need to communicate something more important or more timely, we'll alert the media," Aaholm said.
Sources say DNA results back in JonBenet case
Camera Staff Writer

Thursday, May 15, 1997

Authorities have received DNA test results in connection with the JonBenet Ramsey homicide, sources said Wednesday.

"They got them from things like fingernail scrapings, blood, and a hair found on a blanket, but the crime scene was cleaned so well that parts of the tests are not as conclusive as they could be," a source said. "Dr. Henry Lee and other people from (Boulder County District Attorney Alex Hunter's) task force should be in town the next few days to help analyze things."

Officials would only confirm that police expected the test results to be returned this week.

Authorities sent the material to Cellmark Diagnostics in Maryland on March 4. Testing - which takes four to six weeks - began in early April after Hunter's offer to allow Ramsey representatives to monitor the exams.

In other developments, Boulder police have attempted to investigate a relationship that a Tucson, Ariz., woman claims to have had with JonBenet Ramsey's father, sources confirmed Wednesday.

During the week of April 14, two female detectives traveled to Arizona to question Kim Ballard.

"She had said that John Ramsey had responded to her personal ad in USA Today and that the Ramseys' private investigators have called her, so some people thought it was worth checking out," a source close to the investigation said. "Once the police were down there, they called her and she hung up on them. And since she won't talk to police, I don't know how much credibility you can give her."

Ballard has discussed her alleged liaisons with John Ramsey on television and radio talk shows this week.

Ballard said she refused to provide an interview to Boulder police detectives who returned to Arizona on Wednesday.

"It sounds like she wants an attorney before she'll talk," a source said. "It's interesting, though, because Kim has said she had three dates with him in 1994 and 1995, when (John's wife) Patsy had cancer, and she said he told her what to wear and how to act. If what she's saying is true, she might be able to talk about his habits and demeanor and add some insight into the case."

John Ramsey and a friend found 6-year-old JonBenet strangled in the basement of the Ramseys' Boulder home Dec. 26.

Someone reportedly had sexually assaulted the child and struck her head with a blunt object.

Earlier this week, Ramsey family spokeswoman Rachelle Zimmer and city spokeswoman Leslie Aaholm declined to comment on Ballard's allegations.

Some sources close to the investigation, however, called her accusations "ridiculous."

"I don't know how much credence you can give them," a source said. "And it's completely embarrassing to be following up on leads that have been printed in tabloids like the Globe.
Report: Ramsey case DNA results not shared
Associated Press

Sunday, June 8, 1997

Police investigating the murder of 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey have not shared DNA results with the Boulder County district attorney's office, according to a published report.

Police received test results from Cellmark Diagnostics laboratories May 13, but have kept them from the office of District Attorney Alex Hunter, the Rocky Mountain News reported Saturday.

In the report, the newspaper cited unidentified sources close to the investigation.

The Maryland-based Cellmark reportedly has analyzed human skin cells from JonBenet's fingernails, a spot of blood on her nightclothes, and a small hair sample. Based on evidence, Hunter's office would decide whether there is probable cause to arrest a suspect.

JonBenet's body was found by her father, John Ramsey, in the basement of the family's University Hill home on Dec. 26.

Meanwhile, a police sergeant taken off the Ramsey case after he was accused of leaking information to reporters has filed a notice of intent to sue Detective Commander John Eller.

Sgt. Larry Mason accuses Eller of causing him significant "reputational injuries" and making a false complaint against him to the detriment of his family.

The claim seeks $150,000 damages apiece for Mason and his wife, Cecilia. City Attorney Joe de Raismes would not comment on the claim.

(Joe de Raismes or Joe des Raismes? This last name appears in a few places.)
Forensic advances may solve case
Police re-examine evidence in 1983 shotgun slaying

Sunday, August 10, 1997

A slain body found in Boulder, a pile of evidence, a determined district attorney named Alex Hunter, a swarm of national media - and seemingly no one to blame.

Those are the circumstances needling invistigators who hope to solve the death of 6-year-old murder victim JonBenet Ramsey, found strangled in her home Dec. 26.

But 14 years ago, similar circumstances also pained Boulder police and prosecutors in the unsolved August 1983 shotgun murder of Sid Wells, a University of Colorado journalism student who was dating the daughter of film star Robert Redford.

Police believed Wells' killer was Thayne Alan Smika, a tenant living in Wells' condo who fell behind on rent. Smika was arrested two months after the murder, but later released.

The Boulder County district attorney's office never formally charged Smika because prosecutors felt they did not have enough evidence to win in court.

But in July, Boulder police reopened the Wells case, hoping new advancements in the examination of forensic evidence - particularly in DNA testing - will prove who the killer is. Their prime suspect is again Smika, who is believed to have changed his identity since fleeing an arrest in connection with embezzling $63,000 from a Denver employer in 1986.

Wells was killed by a single shotgun blast to the back of his head. His body was discovered by his brother, Samuel, who had been living in the condominium with Smika that summer.

Wells' murder drew international publicity because he was dating Redford's daughter, Shauna, another CU student. Redford stopped filming "The Natural" to attend Wells' funeral in Longmont.

Parallels were drawn between the Wells and Ramsey cases when international media descended on Boulder in January, obsessed by the strangling of the 6-year-old beauty queen, seen prancing in costume on pageant videos.

Now, in part because of what they've learned in testing forensic evidence in the Ramsey case, police are taking a second look at the 14-year-old evidence.

According to an affidavit outlining the evidence against Smika at the time, police found a note from Smika to Wells and his brother Sam. The note did not have blood on it, but was sitting on a bloodstained coffee table in the condominium.

Police believed the note was placed on the table after the murder.

There were no signs of forced entry to the condominium and no indication a struggle took place.

A search of Smika's Akron, Colo., home turned up a .20-gauge shotgun. Shotgun pellets also found in the home were believed to be a possible match to the type of shotgun pellets found in Wells' head.

Smika's mother told police that her son "may have had some involvement in the homicide of Sidney Wells" and that Smika suffered from blackouts or seizures, during which he could not control his actions.

Shortly after the murder, police asked the FBI to do tests on the shotgun, the steering wheel of Smika's car, evidence vacuumed from his car, pieces of stained carpet from the condominium and boots found in a bedroom of the condo.

There also was a small trace of cocaine found in Wells' body during an autopsy, which led police at the time to believe drugs were a possible motive. Now, detectives believe the motive was related to unpaid rent.

Detectives are not saying what evidence has been returned to the FBI for new testing, but it includes bloodstains and the shotgun pellets.

George Sensabaugh, a forsenic and biomedical scientist at the University of California at Berkley, said DNA evidence was not an available tool for prosecutors in the 1980s. The first cases to use DNA as evidence were in 1986 and 1987, he said. But even at that time, DNA could only be used if investigators had large amounts of DNA, or a dime-size bloodstain that was moderately fresh. But since 1990, DNA technology has become more advanced.

"We have moved into the second generation of DNA technology," Sensabaugh said.

Now, scientists need only a tiny drop of blood for DNA testing, and it does not have to be fresh, he said.

But should police find Smika and bring him to court, prosecution after 14 years could be difficult.

"It's very unusual, but not unheard of," said Christopher Mueller, University of Colorado Law School professor of evidence.

Mueller said successful DNA testing and other forensic testing may close huge gaps in the prosecution's case, but locating witnesses and relying on witnesses' memories of events 14 years ago could hamstring the prosecution.

But just the hope that it remains possible for justice to be served has given Wells' mother, June Menger, at least "guarded optimism."

Saturday, December 27, 1997

Although scientists helped solve crimes for centuries, the scientific bag of tricks at investigators' disposal has grown exponentially in the last few decades.

Examiners can search for the cells of a perpetrator under the fingernails of the victim and can match the DNA, or genetic material, in those cells with the DNA of a suspect. They can make material that's invisible under normal incandescent light sparkle with fluorescence under black or laser light.

Although the two main agencies involved in scientific analysis of evidence collected in the JonBenet Ramsey case - the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and Cellmark, a private laboratory in Maryland - can discuss neither the evidence they've examined so far nor any conclusions they've drawn from it, they did agree to open up their bags of tricks.

Here, Pete Mang of the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and Mark Stolorow of Cellmark describe the sorts of evidence examiners try to collect and the types of analyses they can perform. The following list is not exhaustive: Other forms of evidence that can be analyzed scientifically may have been collected in the Ramsey investigation.


Evidence: Hair, blood, fingernail scrapings, possibly other body fluids found using black light.

Science: Like snowflakes and fingerprints, no two people's DNA is alike. The stuff of heredity, found inside the nuclei of cells, contains the stamp of the individual: Only identical twins have identical DNA, Stolorow said.

The material can be extracted from any tissue sample that contains intact cells. That includes hair, blood, even fingernail scrapings if the victim tried to defend herself and caught skin cells of her perpetrator under her fingernails. Semen and saliva both contain cells, so DNA can be extracted from stains of either.

DNA found at the scene of the crime can be compared with DNA extracted from the blood of suspects. Researchers typically characterize the exact structure of a number of "markers" or regions in DNA that tend to differ greatly among individuals. Colorado Bureau of Investigation researchers target 13 markers when comparing the DNA of suspects and evidence.

In the JonBenet Ramsey case, CBI investigators performed their own analysis, and then sent evidence to Cellmark for additional testing of other markers, Mang said.

Documents written early in the JonBenet investigation stated observation of her body under black florescent light showed something "consistent with semen or seminal fluid," on her legs. CBI investigators later reported they'd found no semen or seminal fluid.

That makes sense, Stolorow said. "(The use of black light) is not a means of identification, it's simply a means of locating candidate stains. Then you have to do lab tests to chemically identify which secretion it is."

In addition to seminal fluids, dried vaginal secretions or saliva may fluoresce under black light, he said. Stains of either could contain DNA.

Significance: Because of the uniqueness of people's DNA, test results can definitively place an individual suspect at the scene of the crime.

DNA collected from the scene of the crime and/or from material found on JonBenet's body will or has been tested against the DNA of suspects, Stolorow said.

Mang added: "We're testing the DNA of a number of people involved in this case."


Evidence: Dark fibers from JonBenet's genital area, white rope used for garrote around her neck

Science: "When two people come in contact with each other, there's going to be an exchange of fibers," Mang said. Whoever tied the garrote around JonBenet's neck may have come away with a few white fibers on his or her clothing or hands. Whoever came in contact with her may have left behind the "dark fibers" discovered in her genital area.

Researchers use microscopes and chemical analyses to identify and compare the structural and chemical makeup of fibers.

"Fibers can be divided into dozens of different categories," Stolorow said. "There are red fibers, many shades of red, and we can analyze the dyes. Fibers have different cross-sectional shapes, there are acetate fibers, wool fibers..."

Significance: If only one type of fiber found at the scene of a crime matches fiber found in the clothing of a suspect, it isn't sufficient evidence that the suspect visited the scene of the crime. "We cannot say that this fiber came from this garment to the exclusion of every other garment," Mang said.

But the more different types of fibers collected from the body, home or car of a suspect that match those found at the scene of a crime, the stronger the evidence that the suspect was there.


Evidence: Broken paintbrush used on garrote, duct tape

Science: Forensic researchers will pore over the broken paintbrush apparently used to tighten a garrote around JonBenet's neck and the duct tape apparently stuck over her mouth, looking for fingerprints, fibers, or cellular material left behind by the person who used them.

"You would try to determine the source it would have come from, if there is anything unique about the piece of wood left behind," Mang said. "We're going to look for hairs and fibers, fingerprints or anything else left on the surface. Everything we get is pretty much scrutinized with a microscope, and from time to time we find foreign material that may not have been there originally."

A fractured wooden paintbrush for example, he said, may have caught various cellular or fibrous material in its splintered surface. Duct tape is notoriously good at holding on to fingerprints, and the tear pattern of a piece of tape can be compared to the tear pattern on a potential source of the tape, Mang said.

Significance: Examination of the tape and paintbrush could help investigators determine if a particular suspect handled the materials used to bind JonBenet or was present when the child was murdered.


Evidence: A ransom note found in the Ramsey's Boulder home, pens collected from the home and handwriting samples collected from parents John and Patsy Ramsey.

Science: Forensic researchers can compare the chemical composition of ink used to write the ransom note and the ink of various pens collected as evidence, Mang said. More than a dozen pens have been collected from the Ramsey's home.

Handwriting specialists can compare handwriting samples of suspects to the handwriting of the ransom note, studying "quantitative characters," Mang said, such as the pressure of pen against paper, the size and shape of letters.

Significance: Ink analysis can demonstrate whether a particular pen may have been used to write a note, but not definitively if that pen was the one used, Mang said.

Handwriting analysis is similar: It can show consistency of evidence, but not final identification.


Evidence: Investigators recently asked friends of the Ramsey family if they have ever owned Hi-Tec or SAS shoes, leading some to conclude that prints of those brands of shoes were found in or around the Ramsey's Boulder home.

Science: Researchers examine shoe prints of footprints for a number of characteristics. "There's tread design, width and length, and then there's wear pattern," Mang said. "There may be a stone in the tread or a cut on the tread design. If these characteristics are imprinted, we can make a positive (identification)."

Significance: Like DNA evidence and fingerprints, shoe prints can be unique and can positively place a suspect, or at least their shoes, at the scene of the crime. (Unlike DNA or fingerprints, shoes can be borrowed, Mang pointed out.)
D.A. disputes DNA report in Ramsey case
By MATT SEBASTIAN, Camera Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 13, 1998
Published reports that police found an unknown person's DNA on the body of JonBenet Ramsey are "a little misleading," a spokeswoman for Boulder County District Attorney Alex Hunter said Monday.
An story by Lawrence Schiller in the Jan. 19 issue of The New Yorker magazine features comments by Hunter that seemingly confirm genetic material from outside the Ramsey family was found on the body of the slain 6-year-old. It also implies Boulder police are collecting saliva samples.
But Suzanne Laurion, the district attorney's spokeswoman, said Schiller took some of Hunter's comments out of context.
"Each of the quotes is accurately represented," Laurion said. "But their placement in the article can be a little misleading at times."
JonBenet was found strangled and beaten in the Ramseys' basement Dec. 26, 1997, several hours after being reported kidnapped.
The New Yorker article - titled "Justice Boulder Style" - also asserts investigators have determined that a certain brand of Taser weapon could have left two sets of abrasions on JonBenet's body. The story also reports that police found an instructional video on stun gun use in the Ramseys' home.
"A lot of those things are not sourced and I don't know where they came from," Laurion said, adding that information on the Taser or DNA testing didn't came from Hunter.
The district attorney wouldn't comment on The New Yorker piece. Boulder police Cmdr. Mark Beckner, who is heading the year-old investigation, wouldn't address any evidentiary matters.
"We don't want to get into that," Beckner said Monday.
Without attributing his statements, Schiller wrote that DNA not belonging to John or Patsy Ramsey was found on their slain daughter's body and that police are swabbing people's mouths for samples. That information is followed by a quote from Hunter: "Even though it's a long shot, if a swab sample did provide a DNA match to the DNA taken from JonBenet's body then police would be able to connect a second person to the murder."
But Laurion said that statement was in response to a hypothetical question Schiller posed about how police would handle the discovery and investigation of foreign genetic material. She said it is not a confirmation by Hunter that police found DNA on the beauty queen's body or that investigators are collecting samples from those close to the case.
"That's not anything our office would confirm or deny at this point," Laurion said.
Again without attribution, The New Yorker article reports that forensic experts have discovered that the distance between two marks found in two places on JonBenet's body are the same distance apart as the two prongs on an Air Taser brand weapon.
But Arapahoe County Coroner Michael Doberson said a Taser is a very different weapon than a stun gun, which is what investigators have been talking about since last spring.
While a stun gun emits a high-voltage shock from two prongs held up against a person's body, a Taser fires two small projectiles connected to electricity-carrying wires, Paladin Arms owner Bob Glass said.
Glass called the Air Taser "a pretty pricey item," selling at his shop for about $300.
Doberson said Boulder detectives visited him April 25 to ask about a 2-year-old Arapahoe County case in which the coroner exhumed the body of Gerald Boggs eight months after burial and found evidence of electrical shock in the man's skin tissue.
"They came over and showed me some pictures from the (Ramsey) autopsy and asked for my opinion, whether they could be stun gun injuries," Doberson recalled. "I told them that they could be; that was a possibility. But there were a lot of things they could do to narrow down the possibilities of what it could be."
Doberson told Boulder investigators to do what The New Yorker reports they eventually did - measure the distance between the wounds and compare that to stun guns.
But with fired projectiles instead of fixed prongs, does the measurement theory hold up for a Taser-type weapon?
"Not unless the distances between the two firing prongs are set so they would always hit the body the same distance apart," Doberson said.
Besides, he added, the only definitive way to tell if electrocution was involved in JonBenet's death is to re-examine her body and look for "very characteristic" changes in skin tissue.
"You really can't tell from a photo," Doberson said.
Although Schiller's piece makes Hunter seem ready to exhume JonBenet's body, Laurion said his willingness to do so was overstated and hinges on the Boulder police.
"Our office is not advocating the exhumation of the body," Laurion said. "What Hunter makes clear is the police say that in their search for the truth, (if) they feel the need exhumation of the body, he would support their desire for this.
"It's very much their call."

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