Schuller Milner, the daughter of televangelist Robert Schuller, and her husband, Tim Milner, initially moved from Southern California to Boulder "to do ministry with college students and downtown residents," she notes. "So we bought a small home in the Mapleton neighborhood off Pearl Street. But I have an artificial leg — I lost it in a motorcycle accident when I was thirteen — and at the end of 2003, I contracted flesh-eating bacteria. All of a sudden, I was so sick. I ended up on crutches for four months — and navigating those creaky, hundred-year-old stairs made us realize that we needed a place with a downstairs bedroom, or room to put one in."Hence, she and her husband began house-hunting — and when a friend suggested they take a look at the onetime Ramsey residence, a 1920s-era dwelling at 749 15th Street, which had sat vacant for several years, she was initially reluctant. "We had four kids at the time" — they now have five, ranging in age from four to 23 — "and I'm a very visual person, because I'm a writer and director. I'm very sensitive and spiritually based. But then I checked myself and thought, 'It's stupid not to just walk through it,' not expecting for a minute that we'd actually buy it."
Her mind changed quickly. "The minute I walked through the door, this sense of peace came over me, and I absolutely fell in love with the home." It was perfect from a practical standpoint, and while there were some stylistic elements not too her liking, such as awnings that protruded inside the home to prevent sun from damaging the furniture, she saw infinite possibilities.
Of course, she also recognized potential pitfalls. For instance, her two youngest children at the time "were going to the same school that JonBenét had been going to. There's a little bench on the playground memorializing her, and we knew families who knew the Ramsey family — so we knew the kids would be hearing about it at school."
Nonetheless, all members of the family signed off on the purchase, which became official in May 2004 — and the response they received from neighbors was universally positive.
As Schuller Milner recalls, "We actually had families coming up to us crying and saying, 'We can't tell you how much it means to us that you're in the home. Seeing it with weeds all around it and deteriorating was so sad. We have wonderful memories of the family, and to see joy in there again, and children, is wonderful.' So I think for them, it was the beginning of a little bit of healing."For her part, Schuller Milner says she was never overwhelmed by thoughts of bad things that happened in the house, in part because she's confident no family abuse preceded JonBenét's murder. "I didn't feel that in the home," she says. "I'm very sensitive in that area; I believe our actions impact our environment. And if something like that had happened, I think it would have bothered me more. And I always really loved the house.
"The only thing we as a society know as being negative in the home's history is this horrific event that happened to little JonBenét," she continues. "And I just believe there were tons and tons of wonderful memories existing in that home both from when the Ramsey family was there and all the many years leading up to them moving in. I don't know how many families lived in there prior to them being there; it's a 1920s home. But one horrific event shouldn't have the power to wipe out all these other beautiful days that occurred in that home. Every family goes through difficult times, and in my case, if I let the loss of my leg when I was thirteen wipe out all the beauty in my life, well, I don't think the world would have much hope."
So why did the family move in late 2005/early 2006? Schuller Milner says various projects and opportunities required her to travel to California so frequently that it eventually became clear they should relocate — and while she and her husband hoped for a time they could return to Boulder, they eventually concluded that doing so would be too disruptive to their kids. Besides, "Grandma and Grandpa are getting to the time in their lives when they need our help."
With that in mind, the family put the house up for sale in 2008 and 2009 — and they've just listed it again. Schuller Milner emphasizes that they're making certain people interested in seeing the residence are serious buyers, not people driven by the "sensational." With that in mind, she says a number of improvements have been made in recent years, including redecorating her kids' former rooms so prospective buyers won't think the look dates back to the Ramsey period.
In regard to those who could never consider living in a place where something so awful happened, she says, "Some people are making this a dark monument as opposed to thinking about the restoration that can occur after a tragedy. And I believe that in our darkest tragedies, God doesn't run. He comes. When I lost my leg, I was in a ditch by myself for half an hour before help came. Before that, I wasn't really in the kind of space to think about God or that kind of stuff, even though I was raised in it. But as I laid there, I felt a nearness to God that I'd never felt before. And I know he doesn't abandon the broken. It's not in His nature.
"As a Christian, we have a different view on death," she goes on. "Death is not the last word, and God is not bound by death. I just don't believe it's in his character to abandon us, and that effects my ability to look at this house and see all the beautiful things about it."
Continue to see larger photos of the home, republished with Schuller Milner's permission.