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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Police Short of Clues in Child's Murder

WASHINGTON -- JonBenet Ramsey's angelic face stares out from the cover of the current Babette's Pageant & Talent Gazette, her hair done up in sophisticated curls, her chin nestled into a glamorous touch of white fur. She is one of nine tykes featured on the front of the winter edition of the trade bible for pint-sized beauty queens, all contestants in the magazine's annual photo competition.


Just as the 6-year-old Colorado girl won many of the beauty contests she entered last year, JonBenet reigned in this one as well. Her prize was to have the cover to herself in the magazine's spring issue. But the day after JonBenet was found strangled in the basement of her Boulder, Colorado, home, publisher Buffie Davenport contacted the family and asked if they would prefer that the cover be pulled.


To her surprise, word came back to go forward. "I was sure they couldn't handle it," Davenport said Thursday from Atlanta. "I have a daughter myself."


JonBenet's brief but promising life mysteriously ended some time after she went to bed Christmas night in her 15-room Boulder home, setting in motion a massive police investigation that so far has raised more questions than it has answered. Her father, a wealthy Boulder businessman, found her body in a windowless basement room at 2 p.m. on Dec. 26, eight hours after her mother had discovered a ransom note suggesting JonBenet had been kidnapped. She was reportedly sexually abused and her skull fractured.


Boulder Police Chief Tom Koby on Thursday night defended his department's handling of the high-profile investigation. In a 45-minute news conference on a local cable station, he lamented the unusually intense media attention that has surrounded the case and said the Ramseys' response during the two weeks since their daughter's death has been perfectly proper.


"Most legal experts would tell you we've done it just right," said Koby. "We've dedicated ourselves to bringing to justice the person or persons responsible for her death. Everything else is secondary and we will not be deterred."


Koby decried what he described as the "sick curiosity" of some members of the public, and the extensive speculation about possible suspects based on little or no information.


The Boulder chief said his department has not handled this case, involving an affluent family, any differently than it would a crime involving a less prominent victim. And he said "there is nothing wrong" with the Ramseys' decision to hire separate criminal defense attorneys and to communicate with the police through the lawyers.


"We are following the rules and they are too," Koby said. As new details, including a "practice" ransom note, continued to emerge in the case, the spotlight has been thrown on the strange subculture of child beauty pageants and whether it holds any clues to the mystery of JonBenet's death.


Videotape of the heavily made-up kindergartner, wearing a frilly blue dress, singing "God Bless America" and being crowned with a tiara, has been played on network television. CBS and its Denver affiliate bought one such videotape for an undisclosed sum. A photographer who took "cover girl" shots of JonBenet sold the portfolio to a New York photo agency for $7,500 after receiving bids from news outlets around the world for as much as $100,000, the Denver Post reported.


Photos and footage of the girl competing show a poised child with teased hair that has obviously been highlighted blond. A pageant source familiar with JonBenet's costumes say her parents spent thousands of dollars on them.


"But it really doesn't matter if it's a $25 dress from J.C. Penney's or a $2,000 custom-made sequined dress," this person said. "It's a matter of presence, and she had it."


John Ramsey, 53, and his wife Patsy, 40, who was Miss West Virginia in 1977, have refused to speak to police on the advice of counsel, but have submitted answers to written questions, according to a family spokesman.


Police sources had revealed earlier the ransom note had been handwritten on paper from a legal pad found in the home. The Denver Post reported this week that a partially written draft of the same note -- in which someone tried to disguise his or her handwriting -- has been found in the house, which had no signs of forced entry.


There also were reports yesterday that a 911 call was placed from the upscale Tudor home to the police emergency center several days before the murder. The connection ended before the dispatcher could talk to the caller. A police officer was sent to the home but left the scene without filing a report, according to records.


A source close to the family said the 911 call was made by a "drunken guest" attending a Christmas party at the Ramsey house Dec. 23 and that no incident involving the family had occurred.


The family associate also said investigators hired by the Ramseys have run handwriting tests on family members and have not matched the writing in the ransom note. In the police investigation, handwriting, blood and hair samples have been taken from immediate family members, as well as close friends, babysitters, and John Ramsey's son and daughter from a previous marriage.


Patrick Korten, a Washington media consultant hired by the couple, said, "The Ramseys struggle not only with the enormous shock of losing their daughter but also with the fact that they have not been removed from the list of possible suspects. They didn't do it."