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Ramseys to receive settlement in libel suit

The Associated Press

BOULDER — The former police detective who wrote a book accusing John and Patsy Ramsey of killing their daughter has agreed to pay them an undisclosed amount of money to settle a libel lawsuit.

Ex-detective Steve Thomas, his co-author, Don Davis, and publisher St. Martin’s Press are participating in the settlement, Ramsey attorney L. Lin Wood said. He would not say how the three will divide the payment.

“The settlement agreement is a repudiation of Steve Thomas’ theory,” Wood said Wednesday. “I think it clearly is a vindication of the Ramseys .”

The Ramseys filed a civil libel and defamation lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Atlanta in March 2001, alleging that Thomas made false accusations about the couple in a book he co-authored and in television interviews promoting the book, titled “JonBenet: Inside the Ramsey Murder Investigation.” In the book, Thomas theorized that Patsy Ramsey killed her daughter in a fit of rage and then tried to make the death look like a botched kidnapping. Thomas accused John Ramsey of participating in the cover-up.

The lawsuit sought $80 million in damages.

Wood called the settlement a victory for the Ramseys and a repudiation of a theory naming them as the killers of their 6-year-old daughter at their Boulder home on Dec. 26, 1996.

Police have said JonBenet’s parents, who now live in Atlanta, remain under an umbrella of suspicion, but no one has been charged in her death. A grand jury in 1999 disbanded without issuing an indictment. Thomas’ attorneys, Daniel Petrocelli and Chuck Diamond of Los Angeles, did not return calls seeking comment. Thomas’ spokeswoman was unable to reach him.

Wood said that the libel claim was a gamble for the Ramseys , who would have had to prove their innocence to win the case. That the defendants decided to pay money is vindication for the Ramseys , Wood said.

“They didn’t sue this case under any false impressions, that it would be easy or worth millions,” he said. “They sued this case as a matter of principle. A man wrote a book accusing Patsy of murder, and John of covering it up, and profited off a child’s death. And win, lose or draw, they were not going to tolerate it.”

There are four defamation cases related to the killing still pending in court: two on behalf of JonBenet’s brother, Burke Ramsey , and claims by a former housekeeper and a Boulder journalist the Ramseys identified as suspects in their book.