Ramseys open up to press


Camera Staff Writer

Thursday, September 11, 1997

As the investigation into the slaying of 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey marches through its ninth month, the Ramsey family has slowly opened their lives to more scrutiny by press and public.

Patsy Ramsey, the girl's mother, appeared on the television show "American Journal" and called Larry King's CNN talk show last week; the family agreed to allow the case to be featured on the TV program "America's Most Wanted."

Wednesday night, television journalist Diane Sawyer broadcast a tour of the Ramsey home granted her by a family representative.


The layout, condition and atmosphere of the family's spacious University Hill home are among the peripheral aspects of the case since JonBenet was discovered strangled in the basement on the afternoon of Dec. 26.

Despite efforts by the family and its representatives to keep press and public out of the house (now unoccupied and on the market), there have been breaches in security.

In early June, James Michael Thompson, 33, of Denver, was charged with arson after someone set fire to several items - including newspaper and pages from Anne Rice's novel, "Interview with the Vampire" - and thrust them through the mail slot with a disposable lighter. The ignited material landed on a marble floor and scorched wallpaper before burning out.

In mid-August, Boulder Police also responded to a burglar alarm at the home but found no intruder.


Earlier this summer, two Ramsey family representatives agreed to show a Daily Camera reporter through the house, on the condition that the information not be printed until a later date. This week, following revelations that Sawyer would show the home on "Prime Time Live," the Daily Camera was given permission to publish a rough description of the house.

Many of the family's personal effects, including a fish tank containing fish belonging to JonBenet's 10-year-old brother Burke Ramsey, furniture, and books - including "When Goodbye is Forever: How to Deal with the Death of a Child" on John Ramsey's night table - were still on the premises during the June tour.

The following is a rough description of the layout and condition of the house at the time of the tour.

Main floor

Cement steps lead up to an ornate front door that opens into a small, marble-floored foyer. Just outside the foyer, a staircase on the right leads to the second floor. Straight ahead, a short hallway leads into an immaculate kitchen in black and white, featuring a mini walk-in cooler with a stainless steel door. At the time of the tour, there was little in the cooler except for some non-alcoholic O'Doul's beer.

A large, carpeted sitting room with a fireplace in the southeast corner opens to the left of the foyer. Among the wall hangings: a relief of a sailboat and a framed print from the Capitol City Country Club in Atlanta.

Proceeding south through the living room is another sitting area with a bank of tall, south-facing windows. To the west is a dining area with a long table. That room leads to an entry hall, which connects to the kitchen.

The spiral staircase on which Patsy Ramsey allegedly found the ransom note alerting the family to their missing daughter rises from an area behind the kitchen.

The basement

Often described as "unfinished," the basement where JonBenet's body was found Dec. 26 is carpeted and the walls were repainted white not long before the girl's murder. The entire area has a claustrophobic feel, with low ceilings, small rooms and many close walls. However, it is well lit with bare bulbs, and clean, except for some water stains on the white walls.

The staircase from the main floor leads down to the right (east) and a small, gray-carpeted landing. A few more steps lead to the basement floor.

Immediately left of the staircase is a small bathroom with a toilet and sink. According to Ramsey family representatives, the commode was disassembled by investigators and left in pieces when the house was turned over the family following the initial, eight-day investigation.

A narrow, carpeted hallway leads west from the bathroom past a small cubicle containing a washer and dryer. On the other side of the hall is a large room the family called "the train room," where the children once played with a train set and other toys.

A similar-sized empty room lies at the end of the hallway. A window at the west end of the room looks out into a window well covered by a removable metal grate. Although often reported as small, the window appears large enough for a full-grown man or woman to crawl through.

(In police photographs of the crime scene that appeared in a tabloid newspaper, a blue suitcase rests beneath the window. When the house was turned over to the family, the suitcase was no longer there, family representatives said. Police also apparently removed a broken window pane - John Ramsey reportedly told investigators he had broken it in the summer of 1996 when he returned from a business trip and didn't have a key.)

Immediately adjacent to the bathroom on the east wall is a small room containing water heaters and other utility devices.

Next to the utility space, at the southeast corner of the basement, is the unfinished, windowless room where JonBenet's body was found behind a closed door. The room is dank and bunker-like, with water stained cement walls and a cement floor. Although some have referred to the room as a "wine cellar," the room appeared somewhat unused. The family used the room to store such things as Christmas decorations.

John Ramsey and his friend Fleet White found the girl's body wrapped in a blanket less than five feet inside the door, lying next to a small, gray safe embedded in the cement floor.

Family representatives said the Ramseys found the safe when they bought the home, but never had the combination. They said police investigators drilled the safe to open it, but did not reveal what contents - if any - they discovered.

Second floor

This floor contains guest rooms and the rooms where both JonBenet and Burke slept. The green-carpeted spiral staircase leads up to a landing. Immediately west is a small bedroom containing a bed, lamp and other furniture. John Ramsey's son John Andrew Ramsey reportedly stayed in the room when visiting.

The door to JonBenet's spacious, square room is across the landing from the spiral stairs. There is a bathroom at the southwest corner of the room and a window facing south.

A hallway proceeds south along the east-facing wall of JonBenet's room, then turns east past two "sitting" rooms and a bathroom. Burke's room, at the end of the hall, overlooks 15th Street and the front yard. The wallpaper features bi- and tri-planes, and the fish tank was situated in the corner.

Third floor

John and Patsy Ramsey slept in a long, rectangular bedroom, with a roomy bathroom at the west end and a fireplace and windows on the south wall. Their bed, featuring a flowered cover and a tall headboard, rested against the east wall. Two bed tables and several chairs also were in the room.

Two staircases lead up to the bedroom: The spiral staircase at the west end, and a straight staircase with a 90 degree bend near the bed.


The garage is adjacent to a yard, with the door facing west into an alley between 14th and 15th streets. A door from the garage leads inside to a room behind the kitchen.

The cement-floored garage is large enough to easily hold two cars, and at the time of the Daily Camera tour was filled with bicycles, toys, paint cans and sporting equipment.