Tabloid to return crime-scene photos in Boulder slaying

Web posted 1/15/97

The Associated Press

BOULDER, Colo. (AP) - A supermarket tabloid that published crime-scene photos in the JonBenet Ramsey strangling agreed Tuesday to return them to Boulder County officials.

Mike Kahane, attorney for The Globe, said the newspaper will return five photos it published Monday and two it has not published. In return, Boulder County officials pledged to drop its lawsuit against The Globe and its request for a court order blocking further publication of the photos.

Deputy County Attorney Madeleine Mason said authorities agreed to the settlement because they feared further dissemination of the photos ``could damage the police investigation and the possibility of a fair trial.''

Kahane said that under the agreement, ``we deny all wrongdoing, we deny all liability,'' and The Globe reserves the right to republish any of the five photos already published. It also may publish any new material it obtains, he said.

Monday's Globe, a 1.3-million circulation weekly based in Boca Raton, Fla., contained the five crime-scene photos - one used twice. They show a garrote - a cord-wrapped stick that might have been used to strangle JonBenet - and a photo of one of her wrists, with a rope around it.

Boulder County officials sued The Globe to block further use of the photos and asked District Judge Roxanne Bailin to issue a temporary restraining order. Globe Editor Tony Frost had said he might run the unpublished photos next week to illustrate a follow-up story on the JonBenet slaying.

Mason told a news conference Tuesday officials were especially concerned with the two photos The Globe had not yet published, because they did not know what they depicted.

County Coroner John Meyer called the leak of the photos from his office ``a tragedy, a tragedy on top of the other tragedy.''

``They were stolen from my office. No matter what the source was, it's stolen material,'' he said.

The county sheriff's office continued its investigation Tuesday into how The Globe obtained the photos, which the Rocky Mountain News reported the tabloid purchased for $5,000.

Sheriff George Epp said six people - employees of the coroner's office and from the photo lab that processed the crime-scene film - have been given polygraph tests and more tests are scheduled. Authorities said whoever leaked the photos could face theft charges.

JonBenet, a former National Tiny Miss Beauty, was found dead Dec. 26, eight hours after her mother called 911 to report she had found a ransom note and her daughter was missing. Her father found her body in the basement of their Boulder home.

Police said the 6-year-old was strangled but would not confirm reports she was sexually assaulted and her skull fractured.

Kelvin McNeill, a Boulder city spokesman, declined to comment Tuesday on reports semen was found near JonBenet's body and that it was being tested for DNA. He said he could not comment on any aspect of the investigation. No arrests were pending on the 19th day of the investigation, McNeill said.

JonBenet's parents, John and Patricia Ramsey, have added to their private investigation team a former FBI agent who was the inspiration for an investigator in ``The Silence of the Lambs'' - John Douglas, former head of the FBI's behavioral science unit. Earlier, the Ramseys each hired an attorney, private investigators and a spokesman, Pat Korten.

Douglas, the inspiration for the boss of Jodie Foster's character in the 1991 Oscar-winning movie, also consulted on the film and wrote a 1995 book, ``Mind Hunter: Inside the FBI Elite Serial Crime Unit.''

Korten on Tuesday declined to say what Douglas' role in the investigation will be, but said his findings will be shared with police.

``Our folks have been in close to daily contact with police,'' Korten said. ``If we turn up any information we believe could be useful, we'll share it with them.''

He said the Ramseys' attorneys already have shared information with investigators.

``The (police) detectives are conducting their own investigation, and that's the way it should be,'' Korten said. ``But when we have information that would be valuable for their work, we share it with them.''

Boulder police said in a news statement that Douglas has been interviewed by detectives and offered ``an opportunity to provide insight on the case.''

Officials also said Tuesday a $100,000 reward fund had been established in the JonBenet murder. It includes $50,000 offered by the Ramsey family and money from other sources. The Globe offered a $50,000 reward Tuesday and said it had set up a tip line.