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Sex-abuse claims 'being taken seriously'

by B.J.Plasket
Daily Times-Call

BOULDER When a California woman came forward last week with allegations of ritualistic sexual abuse by a group that included people associated with the JonBenet Ramsey murder case, Boulder police doubted her credibility.

Police in California went a step further, publicly calling her a "fruit loop."

But all that seems to be changing.

"It's being taken very seriously," Assistant District Attorney Bill Wise said on Thursday.

At least two Boulder detectives have gone to California to check the woman's claims, and at least one FBI agent also is investigating.

"I think the detectives are still out there," Wise said.

The 37-year-old woman claimed to have been sexually abused by adults in and outside her family beginning when she was less than 5 years old.

Her claims include allegations that a rope-like device or garrote was used to partially asphyxiate her during the assaults.

The woman's allegations in part target individuals who are believed to have been in Boulder on Christmas Day 1996, when JonBenet Ramsey was strangled and beaten to death.

Boulder attorney Lee Hill, who represents the California woman, was unavailable for comment on Thursday. On Wednesday, however, he said he was "encouraged" by the law enforcement community's interest in his client's information.

It was District Attorney Alex Hunter who, after being contacted by a newspaper, called on both local police and the FBI to investigate the woman's claims.

Hunter last week said if 15 percent of the woman's story is accurate, it could have an effect on the Ramsey investigation.

The woman making the allegations, meanwhile, is in hiding because of alleged threats against her.

Famed forensic pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht, who three years ago theorized that JonBenet was the victim of the same "erotic asphyxiation" now described by the California woman, said he is not surprised by the possible link to the Ramsey case.

Wecht, who has been a pathologist for 39 years and who is currently the coroner in Pittsburgh, Pa., said that while the practice of using erotic asphyxiation against little girls is "aberrational sexual behavior" of the worst sort, it is "not at all bizarre" for such allegations to surface.

"I think it certainly has to be looked into," Wecht said. "It is certainly not to be disregarded."

Wecht said his experience indicates adults use the asphyxiation to create a "mild convulsion or seizure" in their victims.

"They get a vicarious pleasure" in witnessing what they see as a simulated sexual climax by the child, he said.

Wecht said it is not unusual for more than one or two people to be involved in such sessions.

"They often do it in groups," he said.