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Charges shed new light on Ramsey case

by B.J.Plasket
Daily Times-Call

BOULDER A California woman's allegations of childhood sexual abuse at holiday parties have turned

the JonBenet Ramsey murder investigation upside down, and the woman's credibility could determine the future of the case.

The latest bizarre twist

in the three-year-old case came to light Friday after the unidentified 37-year-old woman, who is represented by Boulder attorney Lee Hill, came forward with allegations that a group of adults sexually abused her at parties when she was a child.

Her allegations, according to Hill, contain similarities to the circumstances surrounding the Christmas night 1996 strangulation-beating death of 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey .

The woman's story broke Friday in a copyrighted story in the Boulder Daily Camera.

According to the story, the woman claimed she was assaulted as a child by adults who used a rope or garrote to partially suffocate her. She said the adults' pattern included choosing a child and striking the child in the head if she did not cooperate. JonBenet Ramsey is believed to have been strangled by a rope device and struck in the head with a blunt object.

The woman, according to the story, has long known the family of Fleet White, the Boulder oilman and former Ramsey family friend who was with John Ramsey when he found his daughter's body in a basement room of the family home. She claims Fleet White's father, 86-year-old Fleet R. White Sr., is her mother's godfather.

Hill on Friday declined to detail the alleged connection between the California woman and the Ramsey case, but said, "A portion of (her story) is relevant to the JonBenet Ramsey murder investigation."

Assistant District Attorney Bill Wise said police and prosecutors at this point don't know if the woman's allegations are substantively connected with the Ramsey case.

"It could have a bearing on the case or it could have nothing to do with it," Wise said.

District Attorney Alex Hunter reportedly told the Daily Camera the woman sounded believable. In a statement released Friday, however, he said, "Opinions about believability are premature" pending a full investigation.

The same Daily Camera story quoted Boulder police Chief Mark Beckner as saying his department doubted the woman's credibility, but that officers are taking her story seriously.

Wise disputed reports that the woman's story has created yet another rift between police and prosecutors in the case.

The newspaper story said Hunter threatened to take the information to federal authorities if Boulder police would not take it seriously. Wise, however, said Hunter had already contacted the FBI because of "possible federal issues" in the case. He said both the FBI and local police have begun interviews with the woman.

Hunter's statement also discounted a disagreement with police.

"I believe that the Boulder Police Department is thoroughly investigating the lead recently given to them," he said. "They have been fully involved since the information was first given to me by the Boulder Daily Camera."

The woman, who said she fears for her safety, contacted Hill after seeing him on television. He then traveled to California, where he interviewed her and videotaped documents allegedly proving the woman's longtime connection to Fleet White's family. Hill later arranged for the woman to be housed in a safe place in Colorado.

White has steadfastly declined interview requests in the 38 months since JonBenet's death, but has been a consistent critic of Hunter. He at one point asked former Gov. Roy Romer to remove Hunter from the case and appoint a special prosecutor. Romer refused to do so, and current Gov. Bill Owens last fall did the same, saying he believes the "right people" are conducting the investigation.

Hill on Friday told the Internet's Justice Watch Forum the woman abruptly left her job, home, pets and possessions in order to flee California.

"She left everything to come forward in an effort to bring this information to the attention of a competent, credible law enforcement investigation," he said. "She has asked for every aspect of her statement to law enforcement to be checked. She doesn't expect anyone to take her word for it. Her information is quite disturbing."

Hill refused to say if the information points toward or away from JonBenet Ramsey 's parents, John and Patsy.

"I don't want to disrupt the investigation," he said.

Hill also declined to say how the woman's experiences are connected to the Ramsey case. He did, however, tell the Fox News Channel that the information points to other people who may have been involved and "may ultimately bring those people into focus."

Hill said the California woman has been in therapy for years as a result of the abuse and said the therapist is also cooperating with the investigators checking the woman's story.