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Back to 1999 Headlines

7/14/1999

One-time Ramsey suspe

by DeeDee Correll
Daily Times-Call

BOULDER For all the bizarre tales on the periphery of the JonBenet Ramsey murder case, his is the strangest.

Corpse abuse, theft from the county morgue, an odd arson attempt at the Ramsey family's former Tudor mansion, Internet prison protests and regular guest spots on JonBenet Ramsey -dissecting talk radio these were the things that made James Thomas, better known as "J.T. Colfax," an object of fascination and a celebrity among the Ramsey -obsessed.

The first three also landed him in jail.

Now, two years and seven months after Boulder police first arrested the bi-polar, alcoholic, shock performance artist, Colfax is on the street again.

On Tuesday, his first day out of jail since 1997, Colfax led a small gaggle of reporters and friends on rambling tour of the spots he visited before trying to set fire to the abandoned Ramsey house.

Toting a sign reading "Take the eel out of reelection" that he made on paper he toothpasted together at the jail, Thomas, 35, protested Boulder County District Attorney Alex Hunter and demanded that he not seek reelection next year and implored voters to impeach the eight-term incumbent.

Hunter, through alleged leaks to the media and behind-the-scenes efforts to discredit Boulder police working the case, is guilty of malfeasance, Thomas said.

"I have acknowledged my wrongs. He never does," he said outside the Boulder County Justice Center three hours after his release and moments before he went inside to register with his probation officer.

In 1997, Thomas was arrested by Denver-area authorities on corpse abuse charges after they received pictures he took of corpses wearing party hats, holding party favors and bearing signs with whimsical messages.

He was a cadaver transport driver for a private company at the time and claimed the effort was a strange attempt at art. Soon after, however, Boulder police discovered he also had stolen pages from the Boulder County Coroner's log book that had JonBenet's arrival noted on it, making him a possible suspect in the Dec. 26, 1996, murder .

Thomas said Tuesday that Boulder detectives interrogated him, plucking hairs from his head as they made him write "daughter," "100 percent" and "SBTC" repeatedly on a sheet of paper in an effort to compare his handwriting to that found on the murder case's infamous ransom note.

Later, released on bond put up by a Denver radio talk show host, Thomas was driven to distraction by the interview, which dug heavily into unearthing possible connections between him and Patsy Ramsey , JonBenet's mother, he said.

Struggling with alcoholism and bouts of mania and depression, Thomas says he was driven to do something. Heavily drunk, he drove to Boulder and stuffed burning paper through the mail slot of the Ramsey home with the idea of getting arrested while delivering a "kick in the groin" to the Boulder establishment.

"It was a sick answer to stop what was happening, including the things that were my fault," he explained. Looking back, though, he believes police and prosecutors should have seen his problems and tried to get him help, not aggressively prosecute him and send him to jail for two years. "I didn't need idiots poking me with sticks."

Tuesday's small and disjointed protest was organized and hyped by longtime Hunter-foe Betty James, creator of the Alienated Parents Association, which has battled the Boulder justice system over child custody issues and what James sees as an extreme racial bias in criminal prosecutions and sentences.

She and Thomas equate Hunter's alleged leak of internal Ramsey investigation documents to Thomas' theft of the coroner log sheets and are outraged Hunter has not been punished.

"This is a statement to Alex Hunter and the rest of the establishment that those of us who have moved here will not accept selective prosecution based on race or profession," James said. "We have apartheid in this county...(Thomas) is a good example of Hunter's selective prosecution."

But Thomas said he was a half-hearted part of the protest and that he was somewhat thrust into it from jail by James.

While in the Boulder County Jail, friends helped him start a Web page about his jail life, an effort he is convinced is the reason he was transferred to other prisons where he was unable to send mail to the page's organizer.

The J.T. Colfax Web site also generated fans.

But now Thomas says he wants to remove himself from the Ramsey case spotlight.

"There is a bizarre connection with me and the Ramsey case that I want to end," he said.

His prospects are not good.

In mid-protest Tuesday, a young woman came out of the Justice Center clutching a copy of Lawrence Schiller's Ramsey murder tome "Perfect Murder , Perfect Town" and asked Thomas to add his autograph to dozens of case-related personalities who had already signed her copy.

"I've seen this case go from a local murder case, a big local case, to a total icon. It's bigger than Lizzy Borden," Thomas said after scrawling `JT Colfax' on the book's inside leaf.

But Thomas is an artist a former Manhattan resident who gained artistic notoriety when he wrote hundreds of West Virginia residents on a daily basis to inform them of his seedy big-city exploits and once fished actor pictures and rejection letters out of a trash can behind a talent agency and made them into embarrassing collages around New York City.

For all his talk of removing himself from the Ramsey limelight, he is still a showman and promises one last piece of "Ramseyica" before he fades away.

Scheduled to appear on Peter Boyles' Denver talk-radio show Friday morning, Thomas promises scandalous revelations about recent efforts to influence the Ramsey case.