Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Murder of JonBenet Ramsey

Suspicion Mounts

Investigator enters Ramsey crime scene.
Investigator enters Ramsey crime scene.

It was while the police were waiting for the call that they made several critical mistakes. They did not conduct a proper search of the house, the area was not sealed off and friends were allowed to walk in and out at their leisure. No moves were made to protect any forensic evidence. The scale of their mistakes became apparent later that afternoon when a detective asked Fleet White, a friend of the Ramseys, to take John and search the house for "anything unusual." They started in the basement. Later, during the documentary Who Killed JonBenet?, made by Channel Four in London, John Ramsey describes what they found:

"As I was walking through the basement, I opened the door to a room and knew immediately that I'd found her because there was a white blanket — her eyes were closed, I feared the worse but yet — I'd found her."

While the Ramseys went to stay with friends, their home became a major crime scene. As this was the only murder in Boulder that year, the investigating police had little experience in that type of crime, with very few of them having conducted a murder investigation at all. Regardless, they immediately assumed the Ramseys were guilty. The fact that JonBenet had been found in her own home by her father was considered highly suspicious. By the time her body had been taken from the house that evening, some of their suspicions had been passed to a local journalist.

On December 27, The Rocky Mountain News quoted an Assistant District Attorney as saying, "It was very unusual for a kidnap victim's body to be found at home — it's not adding up." According to Charlie Brennan, the journalist who wrote the story, the police had also indicated to him that they held a strong belief that the parents were responsible. Julie Hayden, a television reporter for Denver's Channel 7, also covered the story on the same day and drew the same conclusion. She later explained that from her first exposure to the case, the police had made it very clear that they were not scouring the area looking for "some mad kidnapper," but instead, concentrating their efforts on John and Patsy Ramsey.

From that day on, a clear pattern emerged in the coverage of the case. While police chief Tom Koby made little comment, reporters had their own sources, which tended to implicate the Ramseys. At that point, John and Patsy were placed under police protection but were largely unaware of the mounting suspicion against them. One man, however, saw the early warning signs and acted. Mike Bynum, a lawyer friend of John's, hired Brian Morgan to act as their personal counsel. In the same documentary, Bynum defended his appointment, stating:

"It is foolish to blindly throw oneself into the maw of the justice system and to trust the result. One simply must be thoughtful about the way one acts, especially in a case of media attention that reaches the point of near hysteria and especially in a case of media attention which, from the outset, portrays certain people as clearly guilty."

He also defended the need for legal representation:

"If you're guilty, you want to think about having a lawyer, and I want to tell you what, if you're innocent you better have a lawyer — there is no difference."

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