Ramseys face more police questioning

Sunday, August 27th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

BOULDER, Colo. – The parents of JonBenet Ramsey will submit to questioning by police and prosecutors this week for the third time since the death of their daughter in 1996.

Boulder authorities are flying this weekend to Atlanta, where they will first question Patsy Ramsey, and then her husband, John.

The Ramseys will be quizzed separately, with no time limits, in videotaped sessions that a court stenographer will also record. Labeling Mrs. Ramsey the "primary witness," police asked to interview her first, a condition to which the couple's lawyer, Lin Wood, said he has agreed.

The Ramseys have long protested that police focused on them to the exclusion of more likely suspects. Mr. Ramsey, former president and chief executive officer of the computer software firm Access Graphics, said the couple is submitting to the interviews to try to move the beleaguered police investigation forward.

"One is skeptical," Mr. Ramsey said, "but we'll give it one last shot."

The Ramseys were first interrogated in April 1997, then submitted to three days of videotaped questioning in June 1998, before a Boulder County grand jury was impaneled in the case. The grand jury investigated the beating and strangling death of the 6-year-old for 13 months but disbanded without returning an indictment. Boulder authorities said the Ramseys remained under an "umbrella of suspicion."

The Ramseys have maintained that they are innocent, spelling out their theory of the killing in a book, The Death of Innocence, this year.

JonBenet was reported missing by Mrs. Ramsey, who called 911 to tell police she found a 21/2-page ransom note upon waking at dawn on Dec. 26, 1996, at the family's upscale Boulder residence. The note demanded $118,000 for the child's safe return. But before any attempt to collect on that ransom was made, Mr. Ramsey found JonBenet's body, bound and gagged, in an obscure basement room.

Boulder Police Chief Mark Beckner said he was prompted by new forensic tests to request another round of interviews with the Ramseys. He would not say what those tests were.

The interviews will begin Monday at Mr. Wood's office in Atlanta, where the Ramseys live. Mr. Wood said he has reservations about the questioning.

He said he wants a dialogue in which the couple could share information from their investigators. But he said he realized that wasn't going to be the tone of the meeting when police demanded to interview Mrs. Ramsey first. He said police told him that failure to accede to that condition would be "a deal-breaker."

"I call it an interrogation," he said. "It's all they're looking for – primarily of Patsy."

Mr. Wood said he has been looking closely at reports of a second Boulder intruder incident in which a teenage girl was assaulted in her bed two miles from the Ramsey home nine months after JonBenet's death. In that unsolved case, the molester fled after he was surprised by the victim's mother.

"The more I read on it, and the more I reflect on it, it just seems so similar," Mr. Wood said.

In both cases, the girls, who went to the same dance studio, were sexually assaulted. In both cases, the families believe an intruder entered the house in the evening, possibly while the family was out, then waited until the middle of the night to assault the girl.

"Two miles away. They went to the same dance studio," Mr. Wood said. "This backs up the credibility of John and Patsy completely."

The victim's family in the second case said Friday that police recently contacted them to return to the home to conduct a renewed investigation.

Chief Beckner has requested that partial handprints found in both cases be compared for similarities. He could not be reached for comment Friday.

Charlie Brennan is a free-lance writer based in Boulder, Colo.