1999-02-18: “Perfect Murder, Perfect Town, JonBenet and the City of Boulder”
Written by Lawrence Schiller, February 18, 1999
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"Meanwhile, Detective Jim Byfield had obtained a search warrant, and by 8:00 P.M. the police were allowed to begin searching the crime scene. Twenty minutes after they began, coroner John Meyer arrived. JonBenet's body was still lying at the foot of the lighted Christmas tree in the living
room, but now she was covered with a blanket and a Colorado Avalanche sweatshirt. Meyer and his chief investigator, Patricia Dunn, noted the ligature around the child's neck and around one wrist. The cord around her neck had been pulled through a knot almost like a noose, and a broken, lacquered stick was tied to one end. They could also, see a small abrasion or contusion on her right cheek, below her ear. Meyer had left the house by 8:30 P.M. Dunn stayed on to prepare the body for transport to the morgue."
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"Meyer described the cord around the child's neck:
Wrapped around the neck with a double knot in the midline of the posterior neck is a length of white cord similar to that described as being tied around the right wrist." He cut through the cord on the right side of her neck and slipped it off.
"A single black mark is placed on the left side of the cut
and a double black ink mark on the right side of the cut."
Meyer stated these specifics in case it would be necessary to
reconstruct the cord as evidence. He knew the police would
want the knot left intact, to study the technique used to
secure the ligature.
There were two tails of cord trailing from the knot. One
was 4 inches long and frayed. The other was 17 inches long
and had multiple loops secured around a wooden stick that
was about 4 1/2 inches long.
"This wooden stick," Meyer said, "is irregularly broken
at both ends, and there are several colors of paint and
apparent glistening varnish on the surface. Printed in gold
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letters on one end of the wood [stick] is the word Korea."
Fine blond hair, Meyer noted, was tangled in the knot
of the cord around the child's neck as well as in the knot of
the cord tied around the stick.
"The white cord is flattened and measures approximately 14 inch in width. It appears to be made of a white
synthetic material. Also secured around the neck is a gold
chain with a single charm in the form of a cross."
Meyer then recorded a series of observations about a
groove left in JonBenet's neck by the cord. In front, it was
just below the prominence of her larynx. The coroner noted
that the groove circled her neck almost completely horizontally, deviating only slightly upward near the back, At
some points, the furrow was close to half an inch wide, and
hemorrhaging and abrasions could be seen both above and
below it. The groove included a roughly triangular abrasion, about the size of a 25-cent piece on the left side of the
neck, that Meyer had seen when he first viewed the body at
the Ramseys' house.
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"After church, Jeff Shapiro called Frank Coffman, an occasional contributor to the Colorado Daily. Coffman, a friendly
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guy about to turn fifty, had first met Alex Hunter in 1982
during a citizens' meeting and was currently writing articles
on the Ramsey case. Coffman agreed to meet Shapiro at the
Trident bookstore and cafe on Pearl Street, next door to the
Rue Morgue mystery bookstore.
Over coffee, they talked about the case and eventually
reached the topic of the garrote stick. In the photo the
Globe had published, the wood looked like a manufactured
item, slightly glossy and tapered. Then they looked at the
autopsy and crime scene photos, which Shapiro had been
given by his editor. Coffman said he'd once seen some
white cord at the Boulder army-navy store that looked similar to the cord around JonBenet's wrist.
That afternoon, Shapiro visited the store Coffman had
mentioned, which was just a few blocks from the Access .
Graphics offices. Sifting through the boxes of white cord, he
found some that matched what he'd seen in the autopsy
photo. Shapiro asked the cashier if John or Patsy Ramsey:
had ever been in the store.
"Not that I can recall," the clerk said.
That evening, Shapiro wrote a letter to Alex Hunter.
He mentioned what he'd found and said that according to
the clerk, the police had never visited the store to inquire
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"The detectives felt that in every scenario, JonBenet
spent the final moments of her life just outside the wine cellar
door, where the police had found wooden shards from
the broken paintbrush that was tied to the cord at one end
of the noose. That was also where they found Patsy's paint
tote. The tote contained the unused portion of the paint-
brush and additional brushes similar to the one used in the
murder. After JonBenet was murdered, the police surmised,
her body was taken inside the windowless room."
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"To the FBI profilers, the time spent staging the crime scene and hiding the body pointed to a killer who had asked, "How do I explain this?" and had answered the question: "A stranger did it." The staging suggested a killer desperate to divert attention.
Moreover, there was staging within staging: The loop of cord around one wrist was not a real indication that JonBenet had been restrained. The ligature that suffocated JonBenet-though she would eventually have died from the head injury-was in their opinion an unusual cover-up attempt, if that was what it was. The way the cord had been made into a noose-with the stick tied 17 inches from the
knot-suggested staging rather than a bona fide attempt to strangle JonBenet. It suggested that the killer was a manipulative person, with the courage to believe that he or she could control the subsequent investigation. In short, everything about the crime indicated an attempt at self-
preservation on the part of the killer."