Two Days in the Death of JonBenét

A journal of the media madness sparked by the JonBenét grand jury.

 TUESDAY, OCTOBER 12

6:20 a.m.: Flop -- copies of the Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News hit the driveway. The Post gives little indication that the investigation into the 1996 murder of six-year-old Boulderite JonBenét Ramsey is on the cusp of a climax. Even though a grand jury appointed to look into the case is meeting this very day amid rumors that it's about to make a decision about further action (or inaction), the story isn't on the front page; apparently editors feel that "Solar System May Have Big 10th Planet" is a more pressing matter to locals. And while a JonBenét article ("Expert Reviewed Ramsey File") appears on the opener of the paper's B section, the piece doesn't mention that the grand jury is assembling until paragraph six. Predictably, the News takes a spicier approach, declaring on its cover, "Anticipation Mounts in JonBenét Inquiry: Media Flood Boulder for Jury's Finding." In other words, people outside the Denver-Boulder area are noticing us! Hooray!

7:02 a.m.: Both the Today show and Good Morning America have JonBenét reports at or near the top of their respective newscasts. On GMA, correspondent Don Dahler, obviously going for that how-could-it-happen-here? irony, does his standup posed in front of a scenic Boulder creek with a quaint bridge in the background. Unfortunately, it's so dark that he looks as if he's at an all-night miniature golf course whose owners didn't pay the light bill.

Found art: J.T. Colfax's take on Ramsey fever.
Found art: J.T. Colfax's take on Ramsey fever.

8:20 a.m.: Both KOA and KHOW radio are live from the Boulder County Justice Center, where the grand jury is expected to gather inside of the hour. On KOA, hosts Steve Kelly and April Zesbaugh quiz NBC/CNBC/MSNBC reporter Dan Abrams; he suggests that JonBenét's parents, John and Patsy Ramsey, who've been described as being "under an umbrella of suspicion" so often that they might consider endorsing parasols, flew from their Atlanta home to Colorado in order to avoid a "spectacle arrest." Meanwhile, on KHOW, host and supreme Ramsey basher Peter Boyles reminisces with Steffan Tubbs, a onetime KOA journalist gone national who's returned for the day's festivities, before Boyles mentions that he'll be discussing JonBenét on his 7 Speakout feature on Channel 7 in a couple of hours and has also been asked to appear on MSNBC and CNBC later in the day. "Geraldo's coming to town today," he adds, with a touch of awe in his voice.

1:05 p.m.: Judging by local and national television coverage, the uncounted dozens of reporters waiting outside the Justice Center have absolutely nothing to do. The networks' online services generally reflect this stasis; the most www.cnn.com can offer bored ghouls is a link to www.insidedenver.com, a News archive of a mere fifteen JonBenét-oriented stories published since September 14. But MSNBC (at www.msnbc.com) gives surfers a handful of more interactive features to distract themselves with until something happens. Specifically, visitors to the page headed "Ramsey Jury Said to Be Near Decision" can listen to sound bites from Abrams and Lawrence Schiller, author of the JonBenét book Perfect Murder, Perfect Town or explore a Ramsey timeline. And if that's not exciting enough, there's also "APB's look at 16 clues left at Ramsey house." One click, and the curious are whisked to www.abpnews.com and a graphic labeled "JonBenét Ramsey: House of Clues" that includes a complete floorplan of the building where the murder took place. Sample exhibits: "No. 16: A Stun Gun?" "No. 10: Pineapple Chunks" and, inevitably, "No. 1: The Corpse." Fun for the whole family.

3:50 p.m.: As if on cue, a piece of guerrilla art by JonBenét fringe figure J.T. Colfax appears on a pole outside Westword's offices. "It's Ramsey O'Clock" screams an Edvard Munch-inspired sketch. "The end is near."

4:01 p.m.: In low-key fashion, KOA correspondent Jerry Bell reveals that the grand jurors have just left for the day, adding that representatives of Boulder District Attorney Alex Hunter's office have promised to give the press a "four-hour warning" before making any statements -- an apparent courtesy to any reporters who've been spending their downtime in bars. Far more excitable is KHOW's Boyles, who phones in a breathless update to afternoon drive-time jock Reggie Rivers. After Boyles finishes gushing about the huge media contingent, which he says is more than comparable to that at either the Oklahoma City bombing trial or the Columbine shooting, Rivers bids him farewell and then admits that he's not one of "those Ramsey people" who hang on every development of the investigation; "I got Ramsey-ed out about two months after it happened," he says. Then, following a couple of weak attempts to speak about the case (he says the jurors may render a "verdict," not deliver an indictment), Rivers returns to talking about his previous subject -- the estimate that there are now six billion people on earth. Yeah, and most of them seem to be in Boulder right now.

5-10:30 p.m.: The evening blitz starts. Channels 7 and 9 lead with JonBenét, but not with the vigor demonstrated by Channel 4, which all but ignores every other news story for the next hour; included are rehashes of "the case against Patsy" and "the intruder theory," as well as mini-bios of such investigation figures as ex-Boulder cop/mystical eye-roller Linda Arndt and Lou Smit, the Bible-thumping Colorado Springs homicide detective who believes the Ramseys are innocent. On MSNBC, the omnipresent Abrams gives way to John Gibson, among the most annoying men on the planet, and a who's who of Ramsey pundits: former Denver district attorney Norm Early, tightly wired local lawyer Larry Pozner, powerhouse Washington-based gabber Joe diGenova and, of course, Schiller and Boyles. Afterward, Gibson hobnobs with David Gregory, host of MSNBC's Crosstalk, which focused on JonBenét earlier in the day, while CNBC spotlights Geraldo Rivera talking with, yes, Dan Abrams and, yes, Peter Boyles. The graphics are different, but the talking heads remain the same.

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