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10/17/2002

Former tabloid writer files libel suit against author of JonBenet book

The Associated Press

BOULDER — A former newspaper tabloid writer has filed a libel lawsuit against the publisher and author of the JonBenet Ramsey book “Perfect Murder, Perfect Town.”

The book by Lawrence Schiller was published by Harper Collins Publishers Inc. in February 1999 in hardcover and in November 1999 in paperback.

Jeffrey Shapiro, 29, who wrote about JonBenet’s death for the Globe, filed his lawsuit last week in U.S. District Court in Albuquerque, N.M., where the statute of limitations is less restrictive.

The lawsuit alleges that “Perfect Murder, Perfect Town” contains a libelous statement regarding a plot by Globe editors to try to extort information on the case from former Boulder detective Steve Thomas.

Shapiro warned Thomas, police Chief Mark Beckner and the FBI about the plan, the lawsuit said. Shapiro was fired from the Globe in February 1999.

The lawsuit alleges that during a conversation with Schiller before the book was published, Schiller read a passage to Shapiro that said, “... Shapiro had a conversation with the FBI about the possibility someone had engaged in extortion with Thomas.”

The published passage said, “Several months later, the FBI talked to Shapiro about the possibility that he had engaged in extortion with Thomas.”

In a later recorded conversation, Schiller told Shapiro he would change the sentence before the paperbacks were published. It was not changed, Shapiro’s attorneys said.

Schiller said Monday he had not seen the lawsuit and declined to comment.

JonBenet’s beaten and garroted body was found the basement of her parents’ Boulder home Dec. 26, 1996. The 6-year-old girl’s murder is unsolved.