Off Limits

It's been five years since JonBenét Ramsey's Christmas 1996 murder in Boulder rocked the known world, but even time hasn't quelled much of the weirdness associated with this case, nor has it mellowed some of the strange and peripheral characters who got involved in the crime's aftermath.

One of the strangest of the bunch was Jeff Shapiro, the exuberant (to use a nice word) reporter (again, using a nice word) for the Globe, who was arrested for harassing friends of John and Patsy Ramsey while he was covering the case and then fired by the tabloid in 1999. His story continues...

You might remember Shapiro from his arrest, or possibly from his testimony against his editors at the Globe, whom he accused of trying to coerce Boulder detective Steve Thomas into talking; he later delivered hours and hours of taped phone conversations with those editors to the FBI and the national media. Or you might remember him from his appearances on major-network news shows, in magazines and, finally, in Perfect Murder, Perfect Town, Larry Schiller's book about the JonBenet case. Shapiro seemed to be everywhere and to have an in with everyone...right up until he was out. So out, in fact, that he worked odd jobs and even wrote a September 1999 op-ed piece for the Denver Post admonishing his "former tabloid colleagues."

And then, a year or so later, Shapiro slipped out of Boulder, telling anyone who asked that he was tired of the spotlight. It appeared that his fifteen minutes of fame had expired.

In August 2000, Shapiro reappeared...we think. Someone using the byline Jeffrey Scott Shapiro (our Jeff's middle name Scott, too) popped up as a reporter for the Journal News, a daily paper in Westchester County, New York. Robert Masterson, a reporter for the Westchester County Weekly, recognized the name and decided to investigate. But as Masterson wrote then, "The Jeffrey Scott Shapiro who writes for the Journal News would not speak on the record and would neither confirm nor deny that he is the same Jeffrey Scott Shapiro who worked the Ramsey murder for the Globe." Neither Gannett, which owns the Journal News, nor Shapiro's editor would talk, either.

Fast-forward to the weeks following September 11. Shapiro, who'd mostly been covering crime and traffic in the communities within Westchester County, began tracking down one of the many "street rumors" that some Arab-Americans may have known about the attacks before they happened. On October 11, the Journal News published the results of his work in a blockbuster story, which appeared to confirm one of the rumors. "In Brooklyn, a high school freshman who recently immigrated from Pakistan was investigated by federal agents after his teacher confirmed that he had predicted the Trade Center's collapse a week before the towers were attacked," Shapiro wrote.

Although nothing ever came of a police investigation into the student's comments, Shapiro managed to wrangle his way onto the Today Show for an interview with Matt Lauer the day after his piece was printed. The story was picked up by a number of other news outlets, too, and even became the basis for one of high-profile Newsweek writer Jonathan Alter's columns, in which he called Shapiro "an aggressive young reporter." Indeed.

Neither Lauer or Alter mentioned that this aggressive young reporter was already an out-of-work aggressive young reporter -- again -- by the time they talked with him. At some point on the morning of October 11, Shapiro was fired by the Journal News management, according to an article Masterson wrote for the November 29 edition of the Fairfield County Weekly (which by then had merged with the Westchester County Weekly). For what reason, no one would tell Masterson on the record, although off-the-record sources agreed that "in a closed-door meeting at the Journal News, Shapiro was immediately fired and escorted from the building."

Where will Shapiro appear next? We'll just have to wait for the tapes.

All in the family: Local fans of Oprah Winfrey were surprised to find Denver businesswoman Gayle Greer showing up alongside the talk-show hostess last week. Greer, a former Time Warner Cable executive who went on to launch an Internet startup, appeared as part of a program celebrating "courageous women who changed course" by deciding to make big changes in their lives. Oprah hailed Greer as a hot-shot, big-money executive who turned her back on the corporate world, choosing instead to spend time with family and friends. "It's very important to stay true to yourself," Greer told Oprah. "If you don't take the time to feel the unhappiness, you won't find the time to search for it."

Investors in Greer's last venture, however, have probably had plenty of time to get in touch with their unhappiness. On the same day that Greer was opening her heart to Oprah, the assets of her former company -- including the office chairs -- were being auctioned off as part of a bankruptcy proceeding. The company,, was an Internet services provider that went under in September, leaving behind dozens of creditors. Well known in the business world, Greer had used her connections to line up an all-star cast of principals -- like former Denver Bronco kicker Rich Karlis, who served as vice president of sales. And her investors included Denver oilman and longtime Denver Art Museum trustee Frederic C. Hamilton, as well as local businesspeople John and Ann Gallagher.

Not surprisingly, Greer's appearance on Oprah's show set tongues wagging among area dot-commies. While many former employees of Denver Internet startups are working construction or serving beer, none of them have been congratulated on national television for their "courage" in suddenly finding more time to spend with their families.

Perhaps Greer should follow the advice of Oprah's own television shrink, Dr. Phil, who often berates self-indulgent guests on the show, advising them to "get real."

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