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1/7/1997

Pageants was a way of life for JonBenet

Pam Regensberg
Daily Times-Call

LONGMONT -- Bill Supernaw remembers helping 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey onto a viewing platform at the Charlevoix, Mich., annual Venetian Festival last July.

Her small face beamed as she returned the smile to the crowd of people watching her every move. Her full-length, white gown glowed, untainted as the girl wearing it. It was obvious to Supernaw that the child loved the stage.

That summer day was Supernaw's only contact with the Little Miss Charlevoix. But her charm and stage presence left an impression on him.

``She was a rather stunning 6-year-old little girl,'' Supernaw said from his movie theater in the Michigan town of approximately 4,000. ``I was rather surprised to find out she was only 6.''

Supernaw, a former radio personality in the northern Michigan area, said JonBenet was impressive and polished. She moved with the grace of someone four times her age.

``It was obvious she had some training or schooling or she had a lot of exposure,'' Supernaw observed. ``Not a care in the world.''

When the story of JonBenet's murder went national, Supernaw remembered the petite, blonde girl he helped onto the stage.

Now authorities have spanned their investigation to the resort town in northern Michigan to question friends and neighbors about the girl's parents, John, 53, and Patsy, 39, of Boulder.

Police reportedly obtained a search warrant for the Ramseys ' vacation home there, but a Michigan judge sealed the warrant at the investigator's request.

Charlevoix County prosecutor Mary Beth Kur said she prepared a search warrant, along with a motion to seal the affidavit, which was granted by a judge. She said the documents contained information known only to the perpetrator.

Two Boulder detectives who had been investigating the family's background in the Atlanta area returned from Michigan this week.

The Ramseys bought and renovated the Michigan home in December 1992. It is valued at $336,400, according to county records.

The Ramseys own a powerboat docked in Round Lake and a sailboat, Miss America, which is moored in Lake Charlevoix.

Patsy Ramsey reportedly spent the past two summers in Charlevoix with JonBenet and 9-year-old Burke.

Neither John nor Patsy Ramsey has been named as a suspect in the Dec. 26 slaying, but neither has been available for a formal police interview. They have been shielded by their separate attorneys and their media consultant.

Nevertheless, the Ramseys reportedly have asked their friends and neighbors in the Michigan resort town not to talk to reporters. That request was made in a local daily newspaper that covers the town, Supernaw said.

Still, people wonder why the cute kindergartner who looks so beautiful on the stage was someone's target. Authorities said JonBenet's killer tied a cord around her neck and sealed her mouth with duct tape.

Her father found her lifeless body in the basement about eight hours after his wife found a ransom note demanding $118,000 for the return of their daughter. Sources said JonBenet's skull was fractured, but a coroner's report said the girl's cause of death was strangulation.

Investigators hope forensics tests that will not be released to the public will lead them in the right direction.

Meanwhile, radio and news reports have been critical of John and Pasty Ramsey for encouraging JonBenet to compete in beauty pageants. Videotapes show JonBenet -- wearing shiny dresses and face make-up -- prancing around a stage in front of large audiences perhaps as comfortably as other children playing in their back yard.

She held several titles, including the 1995 Little Miss Colorado. She, like her mother -- the 1977 Miss West Virginia -- appeared to be made for the stage, Supernaw said.

Others, however, said the lengths pageant parents go through to encourage their children are shameful.

``Parents are very pushy,'' said Wanda Lou Slack of Longmont, who promoted Colorado beauty pageants and contestants from 1968 to 1984. ``Parents tell them, `Do your thing or I'll smack you.' They're like little mannequins. They do it to please their parents and then they become phony baloney.''

Slack said many children involved in pageants endure physical and emotional abuse from their parents. Slack was involved in the Miss Longmont, Junior Miss, Teen-age America and Miss America pageants, among others. She trained young women to compete in pageants and also helped Miss Colorado Sally Anderson Campbell of Longmont to the Miss American pageant in 1972.

Slack, however, does not personally know the Ramseys .

``We need to stop and think about what we are doing,'' Slack said. ``If it weren't for the parents, the children wouldn't come along.''

Slack said though she was involved with teen-agers and young women, she saw many pageants with younger contestants. They are made to look as if they are ``show girls'' who are at least 20 years old when they are actually children.

``It's a lot of work and not very much fun,'' she added. ``Not too many of them are willing to do this on their own.''

The Associated Press contributed to this report.