2001-05-21: SMIT OFFERS `SUSPECT' LIST IN JONBENET SLAYING
Rocky Mountain News (CO)
May 21, 2001
SMIT OFFERS `SUSPECT' LIST IN JONBENET SLAYING
Author: Todd Hartman
News Staff Writer
MURDER INVESTIGATION SUSPECT SUICIDE
Estimated printed pages: 4
If an intruder killed JonBenet Ramsey, then who was it?
Two weeks ago, veteran detective Lou Smit went public with evidence of his intruder theory without identifying any suspects in the December 1996 murder.
But he and a Ramsey-hired investigator on the case say suspects are out there who haven't been thoroughly investigated by Boulder police.
They say they've interviewed friends, relatives and associates of potential suspects who Boulder police never talked to and have provided detailed leads that authorities haven't pursued.
``The only attention they are giving to any leads that come into them is to say `We've investigated them and eliminated them,' '' said Ollie Gray, who was hired by the Ramseys 16 months ago and works closely with Smit.
Boulder police would not respond to the accusation, but in the past have said they have thoroughly pursued every viable lead in the case.
Gray spent 25 years in law enforcement in Texas and California before becoming a private investigator. Smit, who handled more than 200 homicide investigations in the Colorado Springs area, was hired to help the Boulder district attorney with the case in early 1997. He quit 18 months later, saying he was concerned that authorities were wrongly zeroing in on the Ramseys.
Gray and Smit say authorities need to take a harder look at several possible suspects, including:
* A Boulder County man who committed suicide on Feb. 14, 1997, the day then-Boulder District Attorney Alex Hunter publicly announced to the killer: ``You will pay for what you've done to this beautiful little girl.'' Photos of the suicide scene show a stun gun near the body. Smit believes a stun gun was used on JonBenet. The dead man also owned Hi-Tec boots. A Hi-Tec boot print was found in mold growing on the basement floor near JonBenet's body.
In addition, a short video clip of a Channel 4 newscast was found amid his belongings. The May 1993 newscast began with the discovery of the body of Alie Berrelez, a 5-year-old who was kidnapped from her Englewood home and found dead four days later in a duffel bag in Deer Creek Canyon in Jefferson County. No one ever was charged in the case.
* A man who showed up at a memorial service for JonBenet a year after her death. The man has a criminal history, including the sexual assault of a 7-year-old girl in Oregon, Gray said. Records indicate the man once tried to strangle his mother with a telephone cord. Around the time of the murder, he was getting food and picking up mail at a church near the Ramsey home. When arrested on an unrelated charge in December, officials found a stun gun and a poem about JonBenet in his backpack. Gray said Boulder police may be conducting DNA analysis on the man.
* A man living in a suburb east of Boulder who an informant said had a basement shrine to JonBenet. The shrine included a candy cane similar to the candy canes in the Ramsey's front yard at the time of the murder. The tipster also said the man owned stun guns. Gray said, to his knowledge, Boulder police have never contacted the tipster since Gray provided authorities with the information.
* A man who said he killed JonBenet in an e-mail last October to Gray, Ramsey attorney Lin Wood and John Ramsey, as well as in phone calls to John Ramsey. Gray said he believes the man is probably running a scam because he sought money as part of his contact. But he passed the information on to Boulder police anyway because the man knew intimate details about the Ramsey home that Gray didn't believe had been made public.
He said he provided Boulder police a 52-page document with leads last May and a follow-up document in October. Last month, Ramsey attorney Wood mailed Boulder Police Chief Mark Beckner more information collected by Gray.
Boulder police already were aware of some of the names he provided, Gray said, but he urged further investigation. In some cases, he said, he has checked back with tipsters or friends and relatives of potential suspects only to find Boulder police never contacted them.
``I would question the thoroughness of their investigation and their actual effort to select other potential suspects, suspects with histories,'' he said.
Beckner didn't return a phone call seeking his response to the complaint. But in previous comments and press releases, Beckner has said Boulder police have investigated about 140 people as possible suspects - including more than 50 convicted sex offenders - and that the Ramsey investigation has taken detectives to 17 states.
In a recent interview with the News, Beckner didn't go into detail about progress in the investigation, describing it as stop-and-go. Some of it was simply waiting on laboratory tests, he said.
``Sometimes we get information on somebody, that somebody needs to be looked at,'' Beckner said. ``Somebody calls in information, then we have detectives investigate that. And it may develop into some more work that needs to be done. It kind of comes and goes based on what's going on at the time.''
In an April press release, the police department said it would not respond to Smit's intruder theory, adding, ``the case and development of evidence has changed significantly'' since Smit left his role with the District Attorney's Office in the fall of 1998.
In the release, the police said they had interviewed ``more than 600'' people in the case. In a June 1998 press release, the department said it had interviewed 590 people, suggesting investigators had talked to 10 or more people since the grand jury disbanded without an indictment in October of 1999.
Beckner has said publicly that the man who committed suicide was eliminated as a potential suspect. Police said the man's boots didn't match the print left in the Ramsey basement and his DNA didn't match the unknown DNA found under JonBenet's fingernails or in her panties.
Gray questions those conclusions.
He said police never have said exactly how the boots didn't match, and he said he interviewed two former girlfriends of the man who said they never spoke with Boulder police.
Gray said one of the women told him she had once become angry with the man because she found him naked under bedsheets with her young daughter on the covers above.
As for DNA, Gray asks why police would eliminate him on that basis but won't eliminate John and Patsy for the same reason. Their DNA doesn't match either, according to police.
``If (police) cleared him on DNA, that's fine,'' said Gray. ``Why not the Ramseys?''
Contact Todd Hartman at (303) 892-5048 or hartmant@RockyMountainNews.com.
Copyright (c) 2001 Rocky Mountain News
Record Number: 0105220016