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1/4/1997

Sources: JonBenet suffered fractured skull before being strangled with cord

Pam Regensberg and Jill Tucker
Daily Times-Call

BOULDER -- Boulder Mayor Leslie Durgin Friday ardently defended the police department's handling of the JonBenet Ramsey murder investigation, saying she has complete confidence in the Boulder police.

Less than 24 hours earlier, however, Durgin admitted that she did not know a great deal about the case and had asked police not to give her any information that she couldn't release to the public.

Meanwhile, unnamed sources are saying Ramsey 's killer fractured her skull with a blow to the head before twisting a cord around her neck, sources close to the investigation said Friday.

Sources said the girl was sexually abused as well.

A sophisticated security system at the Ramsey 's Boulder home was not operating when the six-year-old was killed Christmas night, according to the sources.

Also, it was learned that the ransom note found by JonBenet's mother suggested a parallel to the blockbuster Mel Gibson movie ``Ransom.''

A source close to the investigation said the ransom note contained language warning JonBenet's parents that they should be prepared for a rigorous ordeal.

Gibson's character in the movie -- who, like Ramsey , is a certified pilot and a successful businessman -- is subjected to a physically exhausting scenario prescribed by his son's captor.

The police have been criticized by the media for releasing little to no information about the nine-day-old criminal investigation, leaving reporters and residents to speculate about who may have strangled the beauty queen the day after Christmas.

``This town is full of speculation and I'm not about to add to it,'' Durgin said after a press conference.

Durgin had said previously she had asked the police not to give her any information.

Durgin added that despite warnings from JonBenet's mother, Patricia, during a national telecast on Cable News Network Wednesday, Boulder residents have no reason to fear that a mad killer is running around Boulder.

Patricia Ramsey told a CNN reporter, ``There is a killer on the loose. I don't know who it is. I don't know if it's a he or a she. But if I were a resident of Boulder, I would tell my friends to keep your babies close to you.''

Durgin said there is no reason to challenge the investigation or question why the two people closest to JonBenet were allowed to leave the state in the middle of the inquiry.

Five Boulder investigators are still in Atlanta obtaining background information from friends and relatives.

``We had no legal right to detain the Ramseys ,'' city spokesperson Leslie Aaholm said.

Officials hope that results from forensics tests conducted by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation will point to a possible suspect. The tests were expected to be released to police sometime today.

Aaholm said the police department will continue to give the investigation the highest priority, but added she is not sure where John and Patricia Ramsey were or whether they were even in the state.

Aaholm said police are trying to schedule an interview with the Ramseys through their attorneys. If they do know where the Ramseys are, they are not saying.

``We are not at a standstill waiting to interview the Ramseys ,'' Aaholm said, responding to questions about the department's apparent lackadaisical approach to interviewing the parents.

About 25 percent of the Boulder police force is working on the case.

``There are certain facts in this case that only the killer and the police are aware of and it is vital to our investigation that the integrity of the information remain intact,'' Aaholm read from a prepared statement.

Meanwhile, the Ramseys ' home at 755 15th St. has become a hub of activity. Cars slowly pass by as drivers and passengers gawk at the expensive Tudor home encircled with yellow crime tape. Others walk right up to the home in the University Hill area to see where the little girl was killed.

``I just feel so bad for the mother,'' a Longmont woman who did not want to be identified said as she snapped a photograph of the Ramsey home. The woman, her two teen-age children and her sister stood across the street from where reporters and photographers have been planted.

The woman's sympathy, however, was stopped short by intuition.

``My personal gut feeling is that it is someone inside,'' she said.

Investigators remained at the home Friday evening. Plain-clothed officers carried out boxes containing evidence and checked doors and windows. Authorities were expected to complete their investigation of the home Friday night or early this morning.

The Ramseys have reportedly hired Denver private investigator Ellis Armistead, a former Lakewood police detective and the former chief investigator for the Routt County District Attorney's Office.

Lakewood officials said Armistead has a solid reputation as a good detective, but hasn't worked for the department in about 12 years.

Meanwhile, school officials are making last-minute preparations for the first day of school since JonBenet's death.

Counselors will be available for parents and students of High Peaks and Martin Park elementary schools on Sunday afternoon while school employees plan to meet that night to make final plans.

JonBenet attended High Peaks, but Martin Park is in the same building. There are about 150 students in the schools.

``Certainly it's important to involve all staff members,'' said Barbara Chomko, director of secondary education at the Boulder Valley School District.

On Monday morning, a short assembly will be held to acknowledge JonBenet's death. School officials will also provide information to the students to help control rumors, ``and really to acknowledge what has happened.''

Police officers and counselors will be on hand to assist teachers and other employees.

Chomko also said officials will try to keep the school from becoming a media circus, saying the children need to return to normalcy as soon as possible.

``One of our biggest worries is that children know school is a safe place to be,'' she said, adding that the media's presence would be intimidating.

After the discussions and the assembly, teachers will be encouraged to return to normal activities, Chomko said.

``It's a pretty tough time,'' Chomko said. ``That's for sure.''

Scripps-McClatchy Western Service contributed to this report.