JonBent Ramsey -- Umbrella of Suspicion by John Philpin
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JonBent Ramsey



Serial Killers
Young Killers


From day one the umbrella had holes in it.

Patsy Ramsey was capable of rage, the Boulder cops said. So am I. So are you, dear reader. Pissy sheets in the middle of the night when you have a trip planned for early morning -- just how far up the Richter scale of rage does that send you? Does it bring you to those dizzying heights where sanity and madness become indistinguishable, where you grab something convenient and bash your child in the head? Boulder’s finest thought so. Gaggles of grocery shoppers at supermarket checkouts scooping up tabloid titillations thought so.

The stress of the holidays, of Christmas with its trees and lights and tinsil, parties to give and to attend, and whiney little kids to amuse -- that we don’t have a pandemic of yuletide filicide is astonishing. So a bleary-eyed mom, rudely awakened from the depths of sugarplum REM land, clobbers her kid with ... well ... whatever. Oh dear God we’ve got to cover this up, we hear her say, waking hubby who quickly fashions a garrotte from rope he does not have, to strangle his daughter while she is still alive and gasping for breath.

"We’ll need a paint brush," he says, "and some of that tape that we don’t have. You write the ransom note."

You know, most Americans believe that Saddam Hussein’s fingerprints were all over the World Trade Center. One must wonder if this is the same focus group that bought the package on Patsy.

Before we totally trash the Boulder PD theory of the crime, we must lay a foundation. Parents, other family members, and close friends or acquaintances of the family account for ninety percent of the homicides of young children. Investigations of these murders typically begin at center with the parents and move outward in concentric circles examining the other likely offenders. Add to these overwhelming statistics the facts that until JonBenet’s body was found, police thought they were confronted with an abduction for ransom. So it makes sense to run with the numbers, right?


As radical a notion as it may seem, evidence is a damn fine place to begin a homicide investigation. Clear the crime scene and seal it. Escort the parents to separate interrogation rooms downtown, and while two of the city’s finest fire questions at them, dispatch your specialists to 15th Street. Videotape and photograph the place. Dust it for prints. Collect, bag, and label anything and everything that even remotely might connect to the choreography of murder. Keep the house sealed and assign a 24-hour guard. As the evidence is processed and analyzed (the body too is evidence), there will be a steady stream of information. The investigation is under control and may proceed.

If statistics dictate the operational theory of the crime, then evidence is viewed as solid (i.e., supporting the theory), or weak (i.e., detracting from the theory). Instead of an embracing of all the evidence as-is, what evolves is a descent into selective attention to a few details buttressed by such dubious anecdotal data as: failure to comfort the spouse sufficiently; inappropriate grieving; what the eyes reveal. If the Ramseys had been into "Silly String" they, like Darlie Routier, might just be sitting on death row.

In high school, my instructor in Problems of American Democracy told me it is never enough to tear something down. A responsible person will be constructive and offer an alternative. I disagreed with my teacher, pointing out that the people who raze the farm are not the same people who pave it for a parking lot (which, as you know, is what we call progress). Presumably both sets of workers are responsible and attentive to their work. Also, one must factor in the pleasure principle: it is fun to shred faulty thinking. It is quite something else to solve a murder. Besides, the City of Boulder has folks on the payroll whose job it is to solve murders.

In the interests of amusement, that prime mover of pop culture and media attention to criminal atrocities, I must leave you, dear reader, with at least a teaser. Of course an intruder murdered JonBenet Ramsey. The evidence is there to illustrate his entrance to the home, much of what he did inside, and his eventual exit. This was a savage predatory crime committed against a child by a male whose life is fueled by fixation and fantasy. Forget the handwriting. Read the ransom note for content. It is a guide to how his head works.

John Philpin is the author of "Stalemate," one of the most unusual true-crime books in years. Most authors interview suspects in prison. Philpin conducted his suspect interviews for "Stalemate" in motel rooms, at crime scenes, and in cemeteries. His profiling work is featured in Philip Ginsburg’s "Shadow of Death."

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