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Back to 1999 Headlines

2/19/1999

Book is less about JonBenet Ramsey than the politcs of law enforcemnt in Boulder

By B.J. Plasket
Daily Times-Call

BOULDER -- Perfect Murder, Perfect Town, Lawrence Schiller's exhaustive 621-page analysis of the JonBenet Ramsey case, makes no attempt to identify the little girl's killer.

But the book -- excerpted, leaked and buzzed about all week and released Thursday -- paints a shocking, detailed picture of an investigation where ego, power, politics and incompetence teamed up to overshadow and stall efforts to bring six-year-old JonBenet's killer to justice.

The book, on which Boulder police and prosecutors have refused to comment, also offers unprecedented verbatim quotes from investigative files, interviews and internal memos in the case.

And it gives a blow-by-blow account of a series of power struggles and ego contests between members of the both the Boulder Police Department and the district attorney's office.

According to the book, power struggles within a disjointed police department began within hours of JonBenet's death when detective division head John Eller verbally berated detective Larry Mason when the two disagreed on which search dog should be used to look for the missing girl.

When Mason gave Eller his opinion, Eller snapped back and said, ``Did you learn that at the Academy?'' in reference to the FBI Training Academy that Mason had attended and that Eller disrespected.

Within the first day of the investigation, Eller had turned down FBI help in the case.

The book alleges then-police Chief Tom Koby later turned down help from the Denver Police Department.

Before the police department's well-documented ongoing feud with the district attorney's office had even developed, in-fighting among officers was already commonplace, the book says.

Eller at one point suspended Mason, who later sued the department and was given a $10,000 settlement, after accusing Mason of leaking details of the case to CNN. Mason hotly denied leaking information and was cleared in a departmental investigation.

The book says Eller also clashed with Linda Arndt, another detective who now has a lawsuit pending against the department, and prosecutor Peter Hofstrom, the DA's point man at the beginning of the case.

Eller particularly disliked what he saw as Hofstrom's ``chummy'' relationship with Ramsey attorney Bryan Morgan and was suspicious of a series of breakfast meetings between the two, the book maintains.

Koby also asked DA Alex Hunter to remove Bill Wise, his right-hand man for 25 years, from the case after Wise told the county commissioners -- in an open meeting -- that police had bungled the case, Schiller wrote.

Wise, according to the book, also tried to stop publication of a Rocky Mountain News story on his comments by first approaching the reporter and later calling an editor at the News.

According to the book, Hunter -- believing Eller was disorganized and was taking too hard a line toward John and Patsy Ramsey -- asked Koby to remove him from the case.

Eller and the police department, meanwhile, told Hunter they would stop sharing evidence with prosecutors because they were leaking information to the media and the Ramseys .

The book claims Hunter and Hofstrom allowed the Ramseys ' attorneys and experts to examine both the rope and garrote found around JonBenet's neck and a first-generation copy of the ransom note.

Hunter, however, has publicly maintained that the Ramsey camp has no more access to evidence than the rest of the public does.

The relationship between prosecutors and police took its first major hit, the book says, when Eller reportedly refused to allow the release of JonBenet's body until her parents agreed to be interviewed. This reportedly infuriated Hofstrom, who told Eller it was illegal for him to withhold the body, and Hunter, who feared Eller's actions would destroy prosecutors' fragile relationship with the Ramsey camp.

Sparks also flew between those leaning toward an intruder theory -- including Hunter appointee Lou Smit -- and police. Hunter also continually complained that Eller was failing to follow leads that pointed away from the Ramsey.