Film and TV

Boulder Chief to JonBenet TV and Movie Producers: Leave Us Alone to Do Our Job

Update: In June, we wrote about how the Boulder Police Department was dealing with inquiries about the murder of JonBenét Ramsey in the run-up to Christmas Day, which will mark twenty years since her death; see our previous coverage below.

At the time, City of Boulder spokeswoman Sarah Huntley told us "it's possible that we'll issue a statement that gives the same information to all outlets" as a way of fending off requests from TV and movie producers, among others, to interview Boulder police personnel.

Now, the department has apparently reached its tipping point. In response to what's described as "a significant number of media and community inquiries," and just prior to the September 12 air date for the start of Dr. Phil McGraw's much ballyhooed interview with Burke Ramsey, JonBenét's brother, and the September 18 launch for the three-part CBS series The Case of: JonBenét Ramsey, Boulder Police Chief Greg Testa has recorded a video statement in which he essentially tells such folks to leave him and members of his force alone so they can continue working toward solving the case.

In the statement, on view below, Testa begins by saying, "Boulder Police Department is committed to finding justice for JonBenét through a methodical and comprehensive investigation, while looking at all aspects of the case." He adds, "This is an open investigation. Investigators with our major-crimes unit are assigned to this case. They receive and evaluate information on a regular basis. Our goal continues to be an arrest and successful prosecution, which is why we will not discuss or release details of this investigation."

What follows is an implicit castigation of the entertainment industry and news agencies for turning the murder of a little girl into a spectacle still going strong two decades later.

"There's no question this case has caught worldwide attention and there continues to be speculation as to who committed this crime," Testa notes. "Publications and movies offer many theories about how this crime occurred and who is responsible. Facts have been surmised and often distorted, which has led to many conclusions."

Next, Testa underscores the efforts of the BPD.

"To date, the Boulder Police Department has processed more than 1,500 pieces of evidence, including the analysis of more than 200 DNA samples," he allows. "Our major crimes unit has received and reviewed or investigated over 20,000 tips, letters or e-mails. Our detectives have traveled to over eighteen states and interviewed or spoken with over 1,000 individuals. As an organization, we continue to review our practices and procedures and use advancements in technology to further this investigation. We continue to work closely with the Boulder District Attorney's Office, consult with experts and call upon local and national resources as needed. We have not and will not give up. We remain focused on this investigation and finding justice for JonBenét."

Then comes the bottom line: "Members of the Boulder Police Department will not be participating in interviews related to this investigation. We will reserve any additional comments until we have new information to announce in this case."

Look below to see Testa's complete statement, which includes tip lines for anyone with information about the case, as well as a just-released teaser about Dr. Phil's interview with Burke Ramsey, who was nine-years-old when his sister was killed. Also shared is a Dr. Phil release teasing revelations about "secret interrogation tapes with Burke" and quotes such as "I remember the viewing. The casket was small. Her eyes were closed." Below that, find our previous coverage.

A DR. PHIL Exclusive: Highly Anticipated Interview with JonBenét Ramsey’s Brother, Burke, Kicks Off Season 15 of TV’s #1 Daytime Talk Show

Hidden for years, secret interrogation tapes with Burke will be revealed for the first time.

“I remember my mom searching my room that night saying, ‘Where’s my baby? Where’s my baby?’”
– Burke Ramsey

Television’s #1-rated daytime talk show, DR. PHIL, returns for its 15th hit season with the exclusive interview revealing shocking, never-before-heard details about one of America’s most notorious cold cases.

In December 1996, 6-year-old child pageant star, JonBenét Ramsey, was found dead in the basement of her family’s Colorado home. In his first-ever media interview, JonBenét’s 29-year-old brother, Burke, reveals what he knows about his sister’s mysterious murder in a ripped-from-the-headlines exclusive interview with Dr. Phil. Additionally, never-seen-before interrogation interviews conducted with Burke at ages 9 and 12 will be seen publicly for the first time.

The three-part season premiere begins Monday, September 12th and continues Tuesday, September 13th and Monday, September 19th (check local listings).

Select quotes from the episodes:

“Has it ever occurred to you that your parents actually thought you did this and didn’t ask you because they didn’t want to know?” – Dr. Phil to Burke Ramsey

“I remember the viewing. The casket was small. Her eyes were closed.” – Burke Ramsey on JonBenet’s funeral

“What did you think when your dad told you that she’s gone to heaven?” – Dr. Phil to Burke Ramsey

“This is my final interview. I have no reason for speaking to the media again.” – John Ramsey

“I want to honor her memory by doing this interview. I don’t want anyone to forget.” – Burke Ramsey

“I know people think I did it; that my parents did it. I know that we were suspects.” – Burke Ramsey

Original post, 5:40 a.m. June 30: Boulder is under attack — from television producers eager to mark the passage of two decades since the murder of child beauty queen JonBenét Ramsey.

And while the number of TV types who have reached out thus far is fairly modest, officials anticipate more and are in the midst of developing a strategy about how to deal with them.

City spokeswoman Sarah Huntley confirms that the Boulder Police Department has received at least three inquiries and the city two as production companies ramp up JonBenét-related programming in advance of what is frequently referred to as the twentieth anniversary of the six-year-old's December 25, 1996, death — though officials prefer different verbiage.

"Internally, we definitely don't call it an anniversary," Huntley says. "That suggest something that should be celebrated — and this, obviously, is a very tragic situation."

True enough — yet the JonBenét case has become a pop-culture touchstone that continues to fascinate and confound on a mass level. Note the attention paid earlier this year to an Internet theory that JonBenét didn't die — and she's actually singer Katy Perry.

Judging by its summary, Casting JonBenét, a forthcoming independent film, appears to be at least as interested in the hoopla surrounding the case as the facts at its center. It reads:
A sly and stylized exploration of the world’s most sensational child-murder case, the unsolved death of six-year-old American beauty queen JonBenét Ramsey. After twenty years of media speculation and public hysteria that more or less accused her parents, John and Patsy Ramsey, of killing their own child, Casting JonBenét presents audiences with a hybrid of non-fiction and fiction filmmaking that examines the complicated legacy of this tiny starlet. Inciting responses, reflections and even performance from members of the Ramseys' own Colorado community, the film will examine how this heinous crime and its resulting mythologies have shaped the attitudes and behavior of successive generations of parents and children.
CBS plans to take a more direct approach to the material. The network has announced that it will produce a limited-run series that "will reunite the original investigators in the Ramsey case as well as new experts who all re-examine the unsolved case."

Against this backdrop comes word about the arrest of Gary Oliva, a sex offender cited by the late Lou Smit, a Colorado Springs detective who worked with the Boulder County District Attorney's Office on the JonBenét investigation, as a possible person of interest in the investigation — although Huntley dislikes that terminology, too.

"I really shy away from using 'person of interest' or 'suspect,' because those words mean different things to different people," she notes. "I can say we've looked at him, but at this point, we're not prepared to rule him in or out in connection with the investigation."

This time around, Oliva has been booked on suspicion of uploading at least twenty graphic child-porn images. But Huntley says Oliva wasn't targeted due to a JonBenét connection or the impending twenty-year date.

"The arrest came about as a result of a separate tip we received from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children," she says. "After detectives began investigating, they were able to link the network address that had received pornographic images to Mr. Oliva. But this does not change his status in regard to the Ramsey investigation."

Maybe not — but the bust will no doubt pique the interest of producers already on the hunt for people to quiz about the JonBenét slaying.

"I know the police department has gotten a number of calls from production companies," Huntley says. "They're mostly wondering if the department will be participating in any formal interviews."

The answer: no.

"Our position is that we will not, because it's an ongoing investigation," she allows.

At the same time, Boulder officials understand that a simple rejection may not suffice. So alternative plans are being mulled.

In Huntley's words, "It's possible that we'll issue a statement that gives the same information to all outlets. But there won't be any one-on-one interviews with any active investigators or police personnel."

And then there's the matter of filming at Boulder locations.

"Documentary companies are treated a little differently from daily news media, in that they are required to get film permitting," Huntley points out. "So they are working through a variety of different channels in the city. Our film-permit person is actually with the Convention and Visitors Bureau. If they want to film specific parts of city property, like city parks and the Pearl Street Mall, they must fill out applications through our licensing department.

"Representatives in each of those departments have talked to two crews about what those logistics will look like," she goes on, "and I know the police department has heard from at least three distinct producers."

One of the programs that has reached out? Dr. Phil's.

As the city juggles these inquiries, Huntley emphasizes that the focus remains on what's most important about the case — "seeking justice for a child who was killed. And if we make a statement, it will reflect that sentiment."

Of course, plenty of programs about the JonBenét murder have aired over the years. Here's an example from CBS — a 48 Hours investigation originally broadcast in 2004.