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12/26/2002

2002 Ramsey case highlights

Travis Henry
Daily Times-Call

The year 2002 brought new twists — but little progress — to the 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey murder investigation. Here are some of the highlights from the last 365 days:

• For the first time in six years, a portion of the Boulder Police Department’s JonBenet Ramsey murder file was made available to the public.

However, police deemed the details in the 285-page document — which is at the center of a criminal libel complaint by a former friend of the Ramseys — not credible. Fleet White Jr. claims the records — based on allegations by a California woman that she was sexually assaulted as a child by a California-based child-abuse ring that included White, his family members and John Ramsey — unfairly link him to the 6-year-old’s murder.

• In a related development, the Boulder County District Attorney’s Office filed a motion in October to have a special prosecutor once again look into accusations that media outlets committed criminal libel in a series of stories related to the accusations.

White contends that the Boulder Daily Camera and other media outlets implicated him and committed libel by reporting on the woman’s claims.

• A confidant of John and Patsy Ramsey sold handwriting samples and interrogation transcripts from the murder investigation to a tabloid for $40,000.

Susan Bennett, 51, of Hickory, N.C., said she sold the material to the National Enquirer because she believed its publication would prove the Ramseys innocent. It was used in the tabloid’s Dec. 3 edition in a 31-page story headlined: “JonBenet Secret Video Evidence: New Clues Expose Mom & Dad!”

• A former newspaper tabloid writer filed a libel lawsuit in October 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 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.

• Thomas, who wrote a book accusing John and Patsy Ramsey of killing their daughter, agreed in March to pay the Ramseys an undisclosed amount of money to settle a libel lawsuit.

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.