Off Limits

Steal this story!: During a rambling press conference Monday, Timothy McVeigh defense attorney Stephen Jones talked about everything from the lasagna he'd eaten to the delay he'd need now that the Dallas Morning News had published a story by Pete Slover based on confidential--and fake, by the by--materials taken from defense-team computer files. Just about the only thing Jones didn't spill was the fact that, unlike his client, the Morning News reporter has a record.

Quizzed about Slover's scoop on numerous TV news shows over the weekend, Morning News editor Ralph Langer defended the story and denied that it was based on stolen documents, while also admitting that those documents wouldn't be used again and at that very moment were locked safely in his attorney's safe. Where, presumably, even Slover--the paper's crack computer-records reporter--can't get at them.

Langer didn't mention that Slover had been accused--officially--of burglary before: In 1990, after the lawyer-turned-reporter had been working for the paper just eight months, Slover was charged with burglarizing a building in Ellis County, Texas. Specifically, burglarizing the county clerk's office, where he said he'd gone to research a murder case. "The reporter entered the clerk's building through an unlocked door," Langer told his own paper for a story on the incident. "When he found that no one was in the building, he attempted to leave, only to find that the door had locked behind him." After that, Slover apparently mistook the copy machine for an exit, since he used it during his stint inside.

Ultimately, Slover pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of trespassing, was fined $1,000 and ordered to perform 150 hours of community service--and his McVeigh confession story doesn't count in that category, although with all of Langer's protestations about the need to publish the story for the public good, the editor clearly would like us to think it does. "There was never any intent by Mr. Slover to violate the law," Langer told his paper after the 1990 courthouse campout. "We regret that the incident was perceived differently."

They regret it so much, in fact, that the paper didn't include the stories on Slover's little problem in its electronic archives.

The Santa clause: Still available on a computer near you is the complete transcript of the unexpected Today show interview with Bill McReynolds, the former University of Colorado journalism professor and JonBenet Ramsey family Santa who keeps popping up in the case. Last month McReynolds popped up in the crowd outside the Today show studio and was only too happy to chat when Al Roker stuck a mike in his face:

Roker: That's your latest--Santa.
Unidentified Man (McReynolds): Right here.
Roker: You went on a diet.
Man: I did. I lost sixty pounds, Al.
Roker: Wow. That's great!
Man: Uh-huh.
Roker: What's your name, sir?
Man: Santa Claus.
Roker: All right, well, good to see you.
Man: Uh-huh.
Roker: How are things up at the North Pole?
Man: Well, they're fine. I just came back from Spain.
Roker: Ah, very nice.
Man: That's why I got a haircut.
Roker: Very nice. Well, you--you look fabulous.
Man: My mortal...(unintelligible) is Boulder, Colorado.
Roker: OK. Thank you, Santa. Let's go inside to Matt.

Back inside, Today staffers realized they had a live one--the Ramsey Santa!--and hustled Katie Couric out for a real interview. It began with McReynolds demanding, "Can I have a little hug?"

Couric: Oh, well, thank you very much.
McReynolds has given hair, blood and handwriting samples to the Boulder Police Department. And so has his wife, Janet, who played Mrs. Claus at the December 23 holiday party at the Ramsey house. But what interests investigators is Janet McReynolds's much more distant past, including a play the former drama reviewer wrote in 1976 about a girl who was sexually assaulted and then left dead in a basement. (There's also that mysterious matter of a McReynolds daughter being abducted two decades ago and watching as a young friend was sexually assaulted.) The blabbing McReynoldses acknowledge they're both probably suspects, although far down on the list.

And if the Boulder cops are making their list, they should check it twice. Remember: no sign of forced entry at the Ramsey house. Could the killer have come down the chimney?


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