Former El Paso County sheriff claims Boulder police ignoring crucial DNA evidence in new JonBenet Ramsey book

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Feb. 22—JonBenet Ramsey might have collected some of the most critical evidence in her own death.

In a new book, a former El Paso County sheriff accuses the Boulder Police of ignoring DNA results saying original investigators should have used an early lab report to exonerate the six-year-old's parents as suspects early on.

The six year-old died the day after Christmas in 1996. She was found in a dark utility room in the basement by her father seven hours after her mother found a ransom note and called 911. She had been strangled with a garrote made from a length of rope and a broken paintbrush handle. White cord was loosely tied around her wrists and black duct tape covered her mouth. Her favorite Barbie nightgown lay on the concrete floor nearby. Later, the Boulder County coroner discovered an 8-inch crack in her skull.

John Anderson believes JonBenet died fighting off her attacker, as she was being strangled. There is evidence in crime scene photographs and from forensic pathologists who examined the case that she clawed at her own neck.

DNA which was scraped from underneath the child's fingernails and extracted from her clothing never matched anyone when compared to over 20 million profiles in the FBI's national Combined DNA Database System (CODIS). It also didn't match her parents, family friends, and dozens of possible suspects including John Mark Karr, a man who confessed the crime and was retrieved from Thailand to have his cheek swabbed in 2006.

Still, Anderson is calling on the Boulder Police to retest DNA using the latest technology.

In a recent press release though, the BPD insists that they have done exactly that — utilizing the latest DNA technology on the Ramsey case evidence with the help of "multiple agencies, including the FBI, the District Attorney's Office, Colorado's Department of Public Safety, Colorado's Bureau of Investigation (CBI), and several private DNA laboratories across the country," according to a statement released last November.

An investigative source, who asked not to be identified, said critics "don't have a clue about our current evidence. If possible, given current technology, we would have already done it."

Anderson, who served as El Paso County Sheriff from 1996-2003 after 22 years at the Colorado Springs Police, has lost trust in the Boulder Police. To back up his claims, he takes the lid off of official Colorado Bureau of Investigation lab results in "Lou and JonBenet — A Legendary Lawman's Quest to Solve a Child Beauty Queen's Murder," including a report on the fingernail scrapings extracted by then-Coroner John Meyer during the autopsy.

The unredacted report, completed just four days after the murder, eliminated 10 people's DNA profiles from dirt scraped from JonBenet's fingernails including John and Patsy Ramsey.

"How could the Boulder Police continue to ignore the physical evidence and focus on this family that clearly were not involved in the death of this little girl?" Anderson asked in a recent interview with The Denver Gazette.

But this begs the question: Isn't it strange that John and Patsy Ramsey's DNA was not discovered in the fingernail scrapings since they lived with her?

"Absolutely not," Anderson said, adding that JonBenet was struggling to breathe and in doing so, came away with tissue from her killer. Added Anderson: "That's not just casual contact."

In the Dec. 30 DNA lab report on the fingernail scrapings, JonBenet's DNA showed up as a strong sample profile.

Like his long-time law enforcement colleague Lou Smit, Anderson is insistent that John and Patsy Ramsey are innocent.

"We are in an urgency. It's not just to vindicate the Ramseys. This book is to say there's a killer out there. We need to find him," Anderson told The Denver Gazette.

Patsy Ramsey died in June 2006 of ovarian cancer at the age of 49.

The Dec. 30, 1996 lab results showed that besides JonBenet's own DNA shown prominently in the samples from underneath her nails, there was also DNA which did not point to anyone who was tested. Twenty-six years ago, DNA technology was not sophisticated enough pinpoint an exact percentage of JonBenet's DNA compared to the unknown profiles and could not sort out the mixtures.

DNA tested on eight cadavers

It was discovered that the fingernail clippers which Meyer used were also used on other cadavers and sterilized between autopsies. Because of that contamination, Boulder Police tested the DNA on at least eight bodies whose autopsies were done close to the time of JonBenet's. The result? No match.

Since then, the Boulder County Coroner's office has used new clippers on each body which comes in.

Still, though Anderson believes that the DNA belongs to JonBenet's killer, other investigators say that this is not necessarily the case.

"I don't know if this is the killer's DNA"

Forensic Pathologist Dr. Henry Lee, who was hired to work on the investigation after his experience in the O.J. Simpson trial, told The Denver Gazette the DNA may not be the smoking gun everyone wishes they had.

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"I don't know if this is the killer's DNA. Maybe no, maybe yes. Who knows," he said.

Lee believes that the totality of the evidence, including forensic interviews and also the bizarre and long-winded ransom note, are major keys to the case.

"Different medical examiners have different opinions," Lee said. "Some think it was an accident. Some think it was a homicide."

Now that DNA can be separated and retested in addition to advances in genealogic methods, Lee suggests that BPD should retest every piece of crime scene evidence, including those pesky nail clippers.

"Hopefully they still have that nail clipper to do a more sensitive DNA test and maybe you then could sort it out," said Lee.

In an earlier interview, former Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garnett maintained that JonBenet's death will not be solved by identifying who the DNA belongs to, saying the case will be solved using the "totality of the evidence."

An unwavering curiosity

Through two generations of JonBenet Ramsey case obsession, her murder has never stopped getting curiouser. There are at least 16 books exploring the quarter-a-century-old unsolved mystery written by everyone from retired Ramsey-case-detectives, to reporters, armchair sleuths and even JonBenet's own parents.

John and Patsy Ramsey wrote their own story after Boulder County District Attorney Alex Hunter decided not to pursue a 1999 grand jury's decision to indict them.

Anderson's nearly 300-page book dives into his 50-year friendship with Smit, a veteran Colorado Springs detective who was brought out of retirement by then-Boulder District Attorney Alex Hunter three months after the child was found murdered. After a short while, Smit came to the unpopular conclusion that the Ramseys were innocent in their daughter's death and resigned in Sept. 1998 frustrated that the Boulder Police, he felt, refused to consider anyone else.

He took a computer full of evidence with him and dedicated the rest of his life to finding JonBenet's killer. He never took a dime for his work, but critics say he was too close to the Ramseys. He went to Patsy Ramsey's funeral and John Ramsey spoke at Smit's memorial after the former investigator died in 2010.

Despite any criticism, no one denies that Smit was thorough. Anderson, a couple of dedicated retired cops and Smit's family have been working from a spreadsheet with 883 columns which Smit left behind after he died. From that, they have a tiered list of what Andersons says are hundreds of suspects.

The team collects DNA from suspects who Smit suggested, and send it to a private lab paying for the reports with their own money and from funds collected from donations. So far "at least a dozen" people have been eliminated from Smit's original list.

"In my opinion there are dozens perhaps even 80-100 more to be tested," Anderson said.

The Boulder Police have responded to accusations like this with statistics of their own. Last fall, a statement from the BPD reported that investigators have traveled to 19 states, spoken with more than 1,000 people, investigated leads from more than 21,000 tips, letters, and emails.

Since they were handed the case in 2009 after District Attorney Mary Lacy took over, they have not shared critical information about the case with John Ramsey, his oldest son John Andrew Ramsey or anyone on Smit's team, he said.

Anderson says they've opened their arms to Boulder investigators hoping that time could heal a schism which had developed between police and Smit after he resigned and started his own path, but that relationship appears to be over.

"We've met with them twice, they've ignored our list of persons of interest they won't even return my phone call or email anymore and so our confidence, as was Lou's, in them finishing this case and identifying the killer is just diminished beyond any possible value," Anderson told The Denver Gazette.

Hence, the reason Anderson wrote at least the 17th in a line of books on the curious case of the death of JonBenet Ramsey. It's his eighth published book, the prior ones being mostly on history.

In a recent statement, Boulder Police responded to Anderson's book saying the case is an active investigation.

"We recognize that many articles and books have been written about this tragic homicide. We have not read this newest book which, apparently, contains allegations from the late 1990s," according to the statement.

There are still at least three original Ramsey case investigators who are still working for the Boulder Police Department, but most have moved on or retired.

The unsolved JonBenet Ramsey case has outlived the murdered six year-old's mother, Patsy, a deputy district attorney, the family's Santa Claus and Lou Smit.

Said Anderson, who was at Smit's bedside as he died: "What I've tried to do with this book was to communicate two points: That there was an intruder in the home and that this was an attempted kidnap for ransom that went wrong. One of his dying wishes for his family and a handful of detectives is that this case didn't die with him."