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Back to 2001 Headlines

5/2/2001

JonBenet autopsy photos aired on NBC’s ‘Today’

The Associated Press

DENVER — A former investigator said Tuesday police ignored evidence that a stun gun may have been used on JonBenet Ramsey because it didn’t fit their theory that her parents killed her.

Lou Smit, a retired homicide detective, appeared on NBC’s “Today” show as part of a weeklong series on the death of 6-year-old JonBenet, found beaten and strangled in the basement of her Boulder home on Dec. 26, 1996.

“Today” aired autopsy photos provided by Smit showing red marks on JonBenet’s face and back he believes were caused by a stun gun.

Smit believes an intruder killed JonBenet. Smit came out of retirement at the request of then-District Attorney Alex Hunter to help with the investigation but quit in 1998 because he felt authorities were wrongly concentrating on the parents, John and Patsy Ramsey .

“Stun gun marks are very specific, very specific. Once you know what they look like, it’s not hard to distinguish what they are,” Smit said.

A Denver-area forensic pathologist who examined the autopsy photos for Boulder police said Smit’s theory is plausible.

“Unless some other evidence is presented to me, the most likely explanation for those injuries is that they were caused by a stun gun,” Dr. Michael Doberson told “Today.”

No one has been arrested in JonBenet’s death, and a grand jury adjourned in 1999 without issuing indictments. Boulder authorities say John and Patsy Ramsey remain under suspicion.

The Ramseys have denied any involvement in their daughter’s death and included Smit’s stun-gun theory in their book, “The Death of Innocence.” They said a pedophile attracted by JonBenet’s participation in child beauty pageants is probably the culprit.

Boulder police spokeswoman Jennifer Bray declined comment Tuesday. Chief Mark Beckner said in a written statement Monday he would not debate the case publicly.

In the past, Beckner has cautioned against jumping to conclusions about the marks on JonBenet, saying the evidence contradicts Smit’s theory.

No stun gun was found in the Ramsey house.

Smit believes JonBenet was incapacitated by a stun gun, taken to the basement and attacked. Smit said two marks on JonBenet’s face and two on her back were about 3.5 centimeters apart and were likely made while she was alive because they were red.

“You have to explain the fresh marks on JonBenet. Especially on her face. They weren’t seen on any of the Christmas photos or any of the photos taken that day of JonBenet,” he said.

He thinks a vent pipe running from the basement acted like a megaphone to the outside, carrying JonBenet’s cries. He noted a neighbor reported hearing cries around midnight and 2 a.m., but the parents said they heard nothing.

In experiments by investigators, noise from the basement couldn’t be heard three floors up in the Ramseys ’ bedroom, Smit said.

John Ramsey found her body in a windowless basement room next to the boiler room about seven hours after the 911 call.