The Mom Squad

For this group of online sleuths, death makes a holiday

Jameson says he has no interest in attending the Boulder cyber-sleuth meeting this month--not that he's invited. "Many who will attend are 'lynch mob' members in my eyes and I have no interest in meeting with them," he says, then adds, "I think it's a shame it's being promoted as some sort of summit meeting."

But Mrs. Brady and others coming to the Boulder meeting don't consider themselves Anti-Ram. "I was very opinionated early on," Mrs. Brady admits. "As the case went on, I became more of a Fence Sitter." At this point, she says, she "wouldn't be surprised if they pulled a foreign intruder or a foreign faction out of the hat. Or, if Patsy confessed, I wouldn't be surprised."

Knapp, who's careful when choosing her words for fear of angering the Pro-Rams, says that the Ramseys' supporters aren't willing to look at the full case and are blindly loyal to the family. But in fact, Knapp claims, she hopes the Ramseys are innocent.

According to Chris Wheeler (code name: CatNip), a 33-year-old longtime true-crime buff who maintains JusticeWatch, Jameson's pro-Ramsey sentiments aren't what got him--or is it her?--booted from the forum. "I found her tactics to be such that they create animosity and flame wars and greatly increase the amount of time I spend moderating the forum," Wheeler says. Wheeler spends three to four hours each night moderating the JusticeWatch forum; so far, she's invested about $400 in her online obsession. Her trip to Boulder will likely more than double that investment.

Wheeler herself has experienced some verbal abuse online, though not from Jameson specifically. When word got around the online community that she was taking on JusticeWatch, someone tracked down her name and home address. But what really upset her was getting flamed on; she has trouble even repeating what was written. "On Peter Boyles's forum someone posted," Wheeler pauses for a breath, "'that vile flamer that shines Peter Boyles's shoes with her panties is opening JusticeWatch.'"

Wheeler claims she's never flamed anybody in her life. (Presumably, she's never shined Boyles's shoes with her panties, either.)

Though Jameson won't be in Boulder to meet face-to-face with his online adversaries, he has met with other people from the Internet. Lately, he's cast himself as a clearinghouse for people leaking information to the "authorities." After receiving an e-mail from someone who wanted to get "something" to Boulder, Jameson agreed to meet him for the pickup. Since then, he says, he's often performed such duties for people who want to deliver tips on the case yet remain anonymous. And some of the tips he passes on, he says, are not favorable to the Ramseys. He tries not to judge the information he delivers, Jameson adds.

"To pick up tips, I may meet someone at a restaurant or just pick up an envelope. I have certain pay phones I use," he says. "When I go, my family knows where I am going. I have a cell phone and always arrange a meeting in a public place, usually a Cracker Barrel or Dunkin' Donuts--someplace busy. I tell them what I will be wearing or carrying--truly cloak-and-dagger stuff."

But Wheeler says most of the intrigue connected to the online community has less to do with the actual JonBenet case than it does with the petty controversies created within the groups themselves. "I think that the cloak-and-dagger stuff is sort of a historical result of the online communication of this community," she says. "People take pleasure in finding out personal information on other posters. That's the amateur sleuth part. If they can figure that out, I guess they think they've accomplished something."

Here's a conversation that recently took place in the Boulder News Chat when a lurker--someone who visits a chat without participating, also known in JonBenet online circles as a "potted plant"--entered the room:

CatNip: Who's Xrss?
Patib: A new potted plant.
CatNip: Xrss doesn't talk?
Geno: Nada word
Patib: Nope dead silent
Patib: Maybe it Pammy poo...
Patib: I don't think she's smart enough to use a 'puter LOL

In fact, Xrss was not a Ramsey ally but a Westword reporter working on this story. "Pammy poo" referred to Pam Paugh, Patsy Ramsey's sister, who some Anti-Rams believe trolls the chat rooms, monitoring their conversations and reporting back to her big sis.

Whether the Ramseys read these online discussions is a common topic of talk. Although Jameson says with certainty that they don't, others point to John Ramsey's involvement with high-tech industry to support the theory that he does.

The online sleuths have lots of theories. Lauren Stewart of Michigan (code name: shorty), who plans to make it to Boulder, says there's a feeling of mental superiority among the electronic detectives. According to Stewart, who has two grown children and three adopted school-age kids at home, "Everyone's trying to be the one guy who spots the one thing that everyone's missed." Stewart, for example, noticed that Patsy had said that JonBenet's bedroom door was closed--but how could the murderer have closed the bedroom door behind him, since he would have had to carry an armload of other materials along with the child to the basement? Stewart wasn't sure if this seeming inconsistency meant anything, but just in case, she e-mailed the tip to new Boulder police chief Mark Beckner, who was put in charge of the investigation last fall.

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