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Back to 1997 Headlines



Family returns to Colo.

by Jill Tucker
Daily Times-Call with Associated Press Reports

LONGMONT -- The family of JonBenet Ramsey was back in Colorado today amid reports that the 6-year-old had been sexually assaulted.

The unidentified source apparently confirmed what many had speculated since the killing the day after Christmas.

Police would not confirm or deny the report.

Sexual assault, however, was likely from the start, said Boulder private investigator and former journalist Jane Cracraft.

``How many motives are there to kill a child,'' she asked rhetorically. ``Very often the kidnapping or death of a child is associated with sexual assault because somebody has committed a serious crime and they have to kill the child so she doesn't tell.''

Meanwhile, the parents, John and Patricia ``Patsy'' Ramsey , have apparently hired a private investigator and media consultant to assist them during the investigation.

The Ramseys have contracted a Washington, D.C., publicist to return calls to reporters. Pat Kortin, a veteran broadcast journalist who is now a consultant and has a weekly program on small business issues at Radio America in Washington, said the Ramseys were referred to him by a mutual acquaintance.

``What I'm doing right now is simply trying to help handle the avalanche of media inquiries,'' he said today. ``I am a point of contact.''

The Ramseys were believed to have arrived in a private jet from Atlanta that landed at Jefferson County Airport shortly after 8 a.m.

They did not immediately return to their 15-room Tudor home near the University of Colorado where the girl was killed. Police however, arrived at the Ramsey home this morning but declined to talk to reporters.

The couple had spent the last few days in the Atlanta area, where they buried JonBenet on Tuesday. They had stayed at the home of Mrs. Ramsey 's parents in Roswell, Ga.

Each parent has also hired a personal lawyer since the murder .

Cracraft said it isn't unusual for the family to seek out private advisers during a case like this.

``Private investigators become the eyes and ears for the attorney,'' she said. ``There are some people who won't be comfortable talking to police, but would be quite willing to talk to a private investigator.''

She added that if the investigation eventually focuses on a family member, a private investigator can help start the defense. In addition, the family has offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to the killer. The investigator can help screen those calls.

Meanwhile, criticism of the Boulder Police Department's handling of the investigation continues to mount.

Some have questioned why the father was allowed to search the house alone even though police were in the home. The father and a family friend found JonBenet's body in the basement. She had been strangled to death.

The father then apparently removed the duct tape from the girl's mouth and carried her upstairs, disturbing what could be important evidence.

In addition, police have not formally questioned the family as part of the murder investigation, claiming they were allowing them time to grieve.

But the family willingly appeared on CNN in Atlanta Wednesday. The parents have yet to be interviewed and the police must now schedule an interview through John and Patsy Ramsey 's attorneys.

Because the police have released few details surrounding the murder and investigation, little is known about the police department's actions.

Longmont Police Chief Mike Buter was reluctant to pass judgement on the probe.

``In every investigation that is undertaken by a police department, there is probably 1,000 ways to skin a cat,'' Butler said. ``Speculation at this point might be premature.''

JonBenet's murder is the first in the city this year and many have questioned the expertise of a police department somewhat unfamiliar with murder investigations.

``Let's take a look at the Los Angeles Police Department where they have hundreds of murders per year and the way they handled the O.J. Simpson case,'' Butler said. ``It's a tough case and hopefully we'll all learn a little something from it.''

While Boulder doesn't have a lot of practical experience, ``they have a lot of experience with other investigations in which the techniques and strategies can be applied to investigate homicides,'' he said.

Boulder spokeswoman Leslie Aaholm, meanwhile continues to defend the police.

``Police are conducting a homicide investigation here,'' she said. ``We're not going to play this out day by day. We understand there's a level of frustration. We're not rushing to judgment and it would be appreciated if others didn't either.''

But while the public and media may want to know more details, Boulder Police Chief Tom Koby has said that doesn't mean they have a right to know.

``I know the public naturally would like to know a little bit more about the case,'' said CU law professor William Pizzi. ``I think it's natural we talk about it and you're curious. I think not leaking things to the press, I know it's hard on the public ... I really think that's the mark of a professional police department.''

Many residents in Boulder, however, have said they fear for their children and want to know who may be on the loose.

According to Aaholm, residents should always be cautious, but no more so than before the murder .

Pizzi, who lives in the same neighborhood as the Ramseys , said he's not really worried.

``It seems like someone who knew the house or knew their way in,'' he added. ``It doesn't seem like this is a Ted Bundy situation. It looks like someone who knows the family.''

Five police investigators remained in Atlanta today talking to family and obtaining background, a press release stated today.

They are expected to return on Monday, Aaholm said.

She added police officials in Boulder would be pressing for a firm date when they can interview the Ramseys next week.

A press conference was scheduled for 1:30 today to advise media that the crime scene was expected to be released by police tonight or tomorrow.

A police hotline number, 441-4310, has received numerous calls.

While some calls have expressed opinion, some have provided information. The police will respond to those that show promise, Aaholm said.

Boulder police have not requested any arrest warrants and no suspects have been named.

The investigators, however, requested a copy of a CNN interview given Wednesday by her parents, in which they said they did not believe the killer was a family member or friend and vowed to cooperate with the investigation.

CNN spokesman David Talley said it is the cable network's policy to produce any material that it has broadcast, but only with an appropriate subpoena. Talley said CNN will not turn over any material that has not been televised.

In Wednesday's interview, the Ramseys said they will hire attorneys and private investigators to help police. They also have offered a $50,000 reward for help in locating their daughter's killer.

``Whatever they want. Whatever anyone wants, we will cooperate,'' Mrs. Ramsey said.

Ramsey is president of Access Graphics, a branch of Lockheed Martin. Company officials said he has been placed on leave to give him time to grieve.

Boulder officials told residents Thursday there is no need for fear.

``Police don't feel there's some strange person in Boulder they need to be worried about,'' said Aaholm.