1997-12-20: Ramsey attorney: stun gun possible
Ramsey attorney: stun gun possible
Camera Staff Report
Saturday, December 20, 1997
The lead attorney for John Ramsey said Friday a stun gun may have been used in the Dec. 26 slaying of 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey.
Bryan Morgan said his clients have known about the stun gun for "many months," partly because detectives investigating the case were asking neighbors questions about such a weapon, which is used to immobilize people through the use of electric shock.
Boulder police and prosecutors wouldn't comment on the revelation.
"You can call it speculation. You can call it a rumor," said Boulder city spokeswoman Leslie Aaholm. "Call it what you like. It's an investigative detail. We're not going to comment."
Christopher Mueller, a criminal law professor at the University of Colorado, said, "If police are asking potential witnesses whether they own a stun gun, there is some indication that the police have information that such a tool was used in the crime and it could signal a new direction."
But, he added, "another possibility is that this rumor has surfaced, and the police simply have to either confirm it or put it to rest."
Margaret Dillon, who lives in the 750 block of 14th Street, told the Los Angeles Times that Boulder police detectives queried her about a stun gun. She only would confirm to the Daily Camera that she was interviewed for the first time by police last Wednesday.
Three other neighbors contacted by the Camera said they were never asked about stun guns in recent police interviews. Frances Smith, one of Dillon's neighbors, said she, too, was interviewed in the last week. But no mention was made of a stun gun.
"Well, they asked if we heard anything unusual the night of the murder, and of course we didn't," Smith said. "They were here only a very short time. They didn't mention a stun gun. I don't know what a stun gun even is."
Although Dillon said this week's visit was the first by police, Smith said detectives have talked to her three times.
"At the beginning of the activities after the murder, we had two of the Boulder policemen come by at various times," Smith said. "At one time, they wanted to go through our backyard, which of course they did, and the other time was more or less to see if we heard anything or saw anything unusual."
Another neighbor, who asked not to be named, said when new detectives came to his home this week they asked if he'd heard a scream the night of the girl's murder. He said he didn't, but he was in bed with the flu that night.
But, Morgan said, "We have known for some time that law enforcement believed a stun gun was used in the commission of this crime. We have refused any comment about it until it became apparent that the police interviews on the subject had been revealed to the press."
The Ramsey family and its representatives did not reveal the information sooner because of concerns that news reports of police inquiries would cause the killer to dispose of such a weapon, Morgan said.
Morgan said the Ramsey family "does not own such a weapon and have not ever owned such a weapon." Rachelle Zimmer, a lawyer and spokesperson for the family, told the Los Angeles Times, "It must now be clear to any open-minded person that this vicious crime was committed by an outsider."
Nearly a year ago, John Ramsey and a friend found JonBenet strangled, beaten and apparently sexually assaulted in the basement of the family's home about eight hours after the girl was reported kidnapped.
He said family representatives did not have access to autopsy reports or other documents to indicate whether such a weapon actually was used on the girl, or if such a weapon was simply recovered during the investigation.
However, "we are satisfied that the law enforcement authorities have a firm basis for their belief that such a weapon was used," he said.
Jack Mitchell, part-owner of Universal Electronics, which sells stun guns in Indiana and Michigan, said, "If a stun gun was used, it would be to silence a person. ... Once you shock the person, they couldn't scream or anything."
A person shocked by a stun gun would be knocked unconscious in less than two seconds, he said. A typical hand-held stun gun would leave red marks and bumps, possibly two bumps an inch and half to two inches apart. If someone modified the stun gun's voltage, it could burn the skin and even cause puncture wounds.
Among a variety of abrasions on the 6-year-old's body, JonBenet's autopsy mentions "two small scratch-like abrasions" on the girl's left lower leg. It also refers to a "rust-colored abrasion" below her right ear.
But Z. G. Standing Bear, a Colorado State University professor with 35 years of criminal justice experience, including a stint as a coroner, said "it's possible, not probable" that an autopsy would reveal evidence of a stun gun assault.
"There's no research on that, especially on little kids," Standing Bear said.
Camera staff writers Christopher Anderson, Clay Evans, Julie Poppen and Matt Sebastian contributed to this report.