Ten Years After

A decade of blunders, spin and hype hasn't solved the JonBenét Ramsey murder case. Is it time for the truth?

Smit was hardly alone in his peep show. He had the support of the Ramseys' private investigators (two of whom were former colleagues), the Ramseys themselves, and University of Colorado journalism prof turned documentary producer Michael Tracey, who banged the drum for Smit's theories in a relentless campaign to clear the Ramseys by serving up alternate suspects. The cabal also got a boost from an unlikely source: Mary Lacy, Hunter's successor as district attorney.

In late 2002, after almost two years in office, Lacy wrote to the Ramseys' Atlanta attorney, Lin Wood, stating that she believed the case deserved "additional investigation by fresh eyes." While not exempting the Ramseys from this new inquiry, she made it clear that she was quite eager to "work cooperatively with Lou Smit, the Ramseys, and the Boulder Police Department."

Lacy's critics have suggested that she caved in response to the threat of yet another lawsuit by the Ramseys, but other accounts indicate that she was already leaning toward the intruder scenario while still a deputy DA. (According to Thomas's book, she once remarked that "the body language of John and Patsy Ramsey wasn't suggestive of deception and that men were not in a position to judge Patsy's demeanor.") She brought Smit back into the official investigation. In 2003, after a judge in a civil case in Georgia ruled that it was more likely that an intruder murdered JonBenét than a family member, Lacy took the unusual step of issuing a statement praising the ruling as "thoughtful and well-reasoned."

Patrick Davison/afp/getty images
Fred Harper

Last August, the hunt for a phantom intruder who might match the phantom DNA finally led to the only arrest of a suspect in the murder. Unfortunately, it was the wrong guy.

JonBenét Ramsey told me she loved me. Those were her last words.

-- "Daxis"

Keep your babies close.

-- Patsy Ramsey

Daxis, as John Mark Karr called himself, was just the sort of creepy-crawly that the intruder scenario called for; if he didn't exist, it might have been necessary to invent him. In a sense, he was invented. Karr cooked up his elaborate confession over the course of a four-year correspondence with Michael Tracey, who alerted Smit, who told Lacy that Karr should be taken seriously. Lacy bit, and the debacle that ensued -- the headline-making arrest last August, the business-class flight from Bangkok, the collapse of charges in Boulder and California, Karr's subsequent rounds of the cable-show circuit -- has made Boulder law enforcement the focus of yet another flurry of standup routines.

Karr's DNA didn't match the foreign DNA found in JonBenét's underwear. There isn't a shred of evidence putting him anywhere near Boulder the night of the murder. His bogus confession changed significantly in response to information Tracey supplied to him, yet still contained many details that contradicted the evidence ("Made for Each Other," October 12). Despite all that, some intruder diehards -- including Tracey and his British documentary partner, David Mills -- continue to push him as a possible accomplice in the case, insisting that he's being investigated by Homeland Security. But the Boulder District Attorney's Office denies that Karr is still under the umbrella in the Ramsey case. "We're not involved in any ongoing investigation of John Mark Karr," says Carolyn French, Lacy's spokeswoman.

In the wake of the Karr fiasco, KHOW's Dan Caplis and Craig Silverman have sought extensive records of the investigation from Lacy's office, including the complete e-mail correspondence between Tracey and Karr. Lacy has released only portions of the material, and the case may be headed to court soon.

Even if the talk-show attorneys prevail, larger questions remain about the credibility of the Ramsey investigation at this sorry juncture. Just how solid and unequivocal is the evidence of an intruder contained in Smit's PowerPoint, and why isn't that selectively disclosed material available to the public in its entirety? Is there proof that the DNA under the dead girl's fingernails matches the DNA in the underwear -- as asserted in at least one Tracey documentary -- or is this one more distortion of the evidence by the Ramsey spin machine, to point to an intruder who may not exist? How likely is it that the DNA is an "artifact," as Lacy herself has suggested? And what does Lacy's "ongoing investigation" consist of at this point, anyway?

These aren't idle questions: Westword is involved in a records hunt of its own on those issues that also may lead to court. Records already released show that the investigation has become a hunkered-down affair, waiting for the owner of the mystery DNA to show up. Until the Karr frenzy of last summer, Lacy's office had devoted little of its resources to the Ramsey homicide: nothing in 2002, a few thousand dollars in 2003, a few hundred bucks on travel expenses in 2004, nothing in 2005.

Several players in the Ramsey drama have passed away, including Patsy Ramsey and Bill McReynolds. Barring some dramatic breakthrough in forensic sleuthing, the case may never be solved.

These days, Lacy's office is catching heat over the absence of charges in the death of Jason Midyette, a ten-week-old infant who suffered multiple fractures and a head injury before being taken to a hospital last February; he was taken off life support in March. The baby's parents have declined to speak to police. The father, Alex Midyette, is the son of prominent Boulder architect and Pearl Street developer J. Nold Midyette. Two weeks ago, after a barrage of media criticism, Lacy's office acknowledged that a grand jury started meeting about the case in October. That's more than six months after the death, but still a good fifteen months earlier than a grand jury was convened in the Ramsey case.

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