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The Unusual Suspect

Does this look like JonBenet's murderer to you?

A year ago, Boulder police chief Tom Koby faced the cameras and promised that "our guy won't walk."

Since then, of course, the JonBenet Ramsey murder investigation has limped along. Thus far, the only arrests remotely related to the case have been that of a friend of the Ramseys who went after alleged reporters with a baseball bat; a "performance artist" who stole the morgue page referring to JonBenet and later set fire to the Ramseys' mailbox; and a former deputy sheriff and a photo-processing technician who leaked photos of the dead girl to the Globe.

While an arrest has yet to be made for JonBenet's murder, however, people touched by the crime have already gone to court to see that justice is done--at least for them.

There's no statute of limitations on murder--but there is on libel.
Last Wednesday, a Louisiana beauty pageant director filed suit against the West Monroe, Louisiana, police and assorted broadcast outlets--including American Journal, Inside Edition and Hard Copy--for linking him to the JonBenet Ramsey investigation. The fact that he'd been charged with indecent behavior with juveniles--he'd reportedly shown porn videos to two teens--was no reason to connect him with JonBenet's death, David Haynes said.

The week before, Boulder police detective Linda Arndt had sued her employer, claiming, among other things, that the Boulder Police Department's treatment of her resulted in defaming statements being broadcast on talk radio. Arndt's $150,000 suit contends that a department gag order prevented her from defending herself--and that Chief Koby did nothing to stop the defamation. (The City of Boulder has already settled a suit filed by Sergeant Larry Mason, who sued after he was removed from the Ramsey investigation and accused of leaking information to the press.)

At least no one's accused Arndt of murdering JonBenet. The day before Arndt went to court, possibly the most unusual suspect to surface--yet--filed his own suit in Boulder District Court. On February 3, Stephen Miles, a 49-year-old Boulder photographer, filed a defamation case against the National Enquirer, two of its reporters and John Ramsey. The October 21, 1997, issue of the tabloid had trumpeted a "JonBenet bombshell" on its front page: "Dad: We Know Who Did It." Below a pouty-lipped photograph of JonBenet was a picture of Miles, along with the promise of an "exclusive interview with man Ramseys say killed JonBenet."

Enquirer reporters John South and David Wright started their story with this: "John and Patsy Ramsey expect to be arrested for the murder of their daughter, but they already have their defense strategy in place--pointing at a man they'll claim is the intruder who killed JonBenet. 'John and Patsy will claim that the real killer is a neighbor, Stephen Miles, who was once arrested and accused of a sex offense against a minor,' a source close to the couple revealed."

But another anonymous source, this one close to the Ramsey team of lawyers, denies that John Ramsey ever made such an accusation. "Over the course of time, if you look at who we've let interview John, we've been pretty damn careful," says the source. "Now I ask you: Are we going to let him go talk willy-nilly to some fucking dog biscuit at the National Enquirer?"

Nor did John Ramsey make the accusation to anyone who might have repeated it to the Enquirer, the source says.

Lee Hill, Miles's attorney and a former Boulder city council candidate (on an anti-Koby platform), counters with this: "What we know is that the Enquirer published a story saying that John Ramsey said Steve Miles killed their daughter. If John Ramsey never said that, then this is a great opportunity for him to prove that and join us in going after the Enquirer.

"This lawsuit is not an inquisition," he adds. "It's an attempt to develop the truth."

That's something that's always been in short supply in the Ramsey case.

Early in the morning the day after Christmas 1996, Patsy Ramsey made an emergency call to 911. Her six-year-old daughter was missing, and she'd found a ransom note. The supposed kidnappers wanted $118,000 and were threatening to cut off the girl's head.

Arndt was one of the first cops on the scene. Early that afternoon, she reportedly allowed John Ramsey to search the house; he found JonBenet's body in the basement. An autopsy revealed that the girl had been strangled, her skull fractured. It was possible that she'd been sexually assaulted.

Tiny beauty queen. Rich parents. Perverted murder. It had all the trappings to become the true-crime story of the decade (post-O.J.). The Globe and Enquirer raced to see who could turn up the most lurid details and make the most inflammatory accusations, and the rest of the press followed like puppies.

As the BPD investigation bogged down, the DA's office brought in retired detective Lou Smit as a special investigator. Although the cops considered the Ramseys their prime suspects, Smit pursued the theory that an intruder had broken into the Ramsey home, stolen the girl from her bed, killed her in the basement, then taken the time to write a lengthy ransom note on a legal pad found in the home.

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