Tales from the Blue Line 26

You’re a small town police officer in the quiet mountain town of Boulder, Colorado. You have never investigated a major crime. After all, major crimes don’t occur in small towns. At least, not the type of major event programmed into the minds of average Americans. You may be the type of officer who peers into every possibility, in hopes that it could actually be the real deal…the big break you need to feel justified in being a serious man of the law. You could be the type who socializes with business owners and regular citizens- knowing the names of each person you pass on the street. Because, let’s face it- there will never be a real crime in your little burg.


None of your town’s founders even thought about that. Why would they? Town founders are talented, mature leaders of people- businessmen and women. Their associates and supporters are of the same mind as they: Take care of yourself and your business, and then take care of others. Squeeze in some fun. Live a good life.


Major crimes? You mean like Law And Order on TV? Very entertaining. Thank goodness it’s as close as the average person ever gets to witnessing crime drama.


It’s the way good people live, and the people you work for are the epitome of “good.”


Of course, you- the small town officer- will have things to do: Issuing parking tickets; directing traffic during city wide events, following business men carrying their bags of daily profits to the bank, and more – like locking up the stereotypical town drunk. The major laws are made at the State level. You’d be on the scene of those things too, if they ever occurred in your little burg. State and Federal law enforcement officers handle that, and they are more like rumors than real people. Even to you, the small town officer.


Then one day…


You are sent to the home of the wealthy John and Patsy Ramsey, who report that their six-year-old star model-actress-beautiful-beyond-belief daughter, JonBenet, has been kidnapped.


Kidnapped from their home- a large, beautiful, expensive residence located where other wealthy people live.


You’ve had minimal training in complex, felonious crimes – if any – and, again, you’ve never investigated any. This is not a criticism, you’ve done exactly what you were hired – and trained – to do.


And you are it. On your way, going in, you know that you are it.


Upon arrival you are told a suspicious, pat tale by the little girl’s parents who seem too calm. The girl was put to bed the previous evening at 9:30 pm in her upstairs room. The parents went to bed shortly after that. The mother says that shortly after 5:00 am the next morning, she got up and went downstairs, where she found a ransom note on the steps.


The note says her daughter has been taken from their home and will be killed within twenty-four hours unless the perpetrators are given over one hundred thousand dollars. They will be called with further instructions. The mother and father check their daughter’s bed, and it is empty.


911 is called at 5:25 am. You arrive seven minutes later. The note said that the kidnapper(s) would call. The police wait with the parents; no call ever comes.


What do you do?


You continue investigating, of course. Your original suspicion of the too-calm parents, and the relative ease with which the kidnapping was alleged to have been accomplished remains, but you make no accusations at that time. Remember, you’ve had minimal to no detailed training or experience in matters of this magnitude. Which brings you back to…


What do you do?


First, you call your commanding officer, who has had far more investigation experience than you. Right? Except, well, let’s imagine that that’s not the case. There are myriad reasons why that could be. It happens (oh, believe me, it happens).


There are basic things – common sense things – that every cop is trained to do. Things that thoughtful, non-police officers could arrive at through simple common sense.


But that point is where things went wrong, and the reason why JonBenet was found murdered in her own home many hours later on December 26th, 1996.


In fact, proper police procedures were, how shall I say… “nuked.” The scene was not sealed or searched; random neighbors and friends were allowed to enter the home, and so on.


I know. It is hideous.


As was previously stated, the officers were indeed correct to be suspicious of the parents’ story. That someone had forcibly – but so soundlessly the parents were not awakened – entered their home in the dark of night, proceeded to their daughter’s bed and just as soundlessly removed her from the home. Said kidnappers also brought a note and left it in the house for the parents, and then the police, and then forensics experts to examine.


But I’m getting ahead of myself.


Making no sound while entering the home is not a big deal. Expert lock pickers can do that. Knowledgeable people could also immediately silence the child, even before removing her from her bed.


Note: Leaving a letter/note at the scene is a very bad idea, for the reasons already pointed out. But it is possible, even if not plausible.


Now, even you- the small town officer, knows that the entire property is a crime scene. Right? And that, given the magnitude of this particular investigation, said crime scene must be sealed off and searched inch-by-inch for any possible clues. Right? Start with the building – from the daughter’s bed outward you go to every single place in the home. Everything is photographed. Every possible bit of evidence is properly handled and recovered, from the attic to the basement.


The basement.


JonBenet Ramsey is found hours later, dead in a basement closet. Hours later.


Forget about miniscule, trace evidence possibilities. Forget about the lack of observable forced entry.


A dead body is something that the initial investigating officers must recover. They must recover it within minutes of their arrival upon the scene.


Think deeper. Wouldn’t the mom and dad check all of those place themselves; from the instant they knew there was a problem? Especially easily accessible places: under beds, inside closets. The idea that it was possibly a horrible, stupid joke would cross their minds. Panic stricken parents would literally rip the place apart the more they came to believe that their child had indeed been kidnapped, and that it was not some sort of hoax.


All of that would be before they even call the authorities.


Wouldn’t it?


The mom and dad should have recovered that child’s body before 6:00 am. And that’s giving a lot of extra time from 5:25 am.


Even if they were too panicked and confused to check the basement, they would have been screaming (and crying) hysterically when the police arrived. Demanding that the officers immediately pull out all stops.


Wouldn’t they?


Yeah, they would have.


Oh well, at least the original investigating officers thought the case was dubious. Acting on their suspicions, automatically doing routine police work? Not so much.


In fact, it wasn’t until early afternoon when a detective asked a neighbor – a freakin’ neighbor! – to accompany the father to the basement, to search for “anything unusual,” and the girl was found in a closet, covered by a blanket.


She’d been hit on the head and strangled, and had obviously been placed there before Mrs. Ramsey got out of bed and found a ransom note on the stairs leading to the second floor. No need to challenge that fact, according to you- the small town detective with no investigative experience.


Say what?


From that point on the matter instantly grew into one of the most morbidly insane incidents in America’s crime history. The bizarre litany of subsequent events is well documented: Mom is a suspect. Dad is a suspect. Both declare their innocence. After a grand jury finished deliberation in 1999 they provided their recommendation to the District Attorney, who sealed the case and proceeded no further, without explanation.


Go figure.


Okay, I will: The investigation was so fouled up no DA could have presented accumulated “evidence” to a jury and then reasonably hoped for a conviction.


The lack of intense follow up, the fact that no possibility of an outside perpetrator was officially presented until years later…all crushed any hopes of a fair and accurate investigation, let alone trial.


The grand jury result was made public in – 2013? Of course, the DA had righteously feared he did not have enough evidence to issue charges.


An interesting addendum to the case is the confession to the break in and murder of JonBenet made by a man who had been a school teacher, and who had been convicted of possessing child pornography, given many years later, while he was living in Thailand. Forget the details: It was nothing more than a very bad joke.


The police investigation can best be summed up in two words: Epic Fail (with an infinite number of exclamation points.)


And that’s being kind. Volumes could be written describing the outrageous incompetence of all involved, going all the way back to those who developed the town from the ground up. You must have a system for effectively dealing with crimes – from spitting on the sidewalk to the murder of JonBenet Ramsey.


ROb2This case is, and forever will be, a monstrous disgrace to the tradition of law enforcement.

Rob Riley

This is number 26 in an ongoing series from Rob.

He spent thirty-two years as a Milwaukee police officer: seven years doing undercover narcotics investigations and twenty-two years as a major crimes detective. Writing and reading have been lifelong passions, and he began by writing short stories more than thirty years ago.

Rob is published by Orange Hat Press

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