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
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
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
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