JonBenet Ramsey murder case: Former police chief opens up on Reddit, and now apparently regrets remarks
BOULDER, COLORADO (WITI/CNN) — Former Boulder, Colorado Police Chief Mark Beckner spoke out about the JonBenet Ramsey murder case on Reddit this past weekend, in an “Ask Me Anything” session on the site. He made remarks — at least some of which he now apparently regrets.
Beckner was the police chief during the JonBenet Ramsey case. Six-year-old beauty queen JonBenet was found murdered in the basement of her home in 1996. The case, full of lurid twists and turns, gripped the nation.
59-year-old Beckner now lives in Firestone, Colorado.
Since Beckner’s comments have been deleted, it’s impossible to link to individual responses, but all of his answers can be found in a cached version of the thread at http://extras.denverpost.com/jonbenetAMA.html.
The Denver Post reports Beckner on Tuesday, February 24th said he didn’t realize his comments on Reddit would filter out to the public at large.
“I talked to the organizer and my impression was that this was a members-only type group that talked about unsolved mysteries all around the world. In fact, they had to give me a password to get in. I didn’t know it was an open-architecture type thing, or I wouldn’t have done it. It was a misunderstanding and naivete on my part. I’ve tried to put the media attention behind me,” Beckner told the Denver Post.
The “Ask Me Anything” Q&A session Saturday, February 21st garnered more than 600 comments, the Denver Post reports.
Now, with the “chat out of the bag,” so to speak, Beckner was asked whether there is anything he wishes to take back, add to or clarify.
“I tried to be honest and fair, and I think the only thing I would emphasize is that the unknown DNA (from JonBenet’s clothing) is very important. And I’m not involved any more, but that has got to be the focus of the investigation. In my opinion, at this point, that’s your suspect. The suspect is the donator of that unknown DNA, and until you can prove otherwise, I think that’s the way you’ve got to look at it,” Beckner told the Denver Post.
Beckner said on Reddit the JonBenet Ramsey case isn’t currently being actively worked — something the current Boulder police chief disputes.
“It’s an open homicide investigation,” Boulder Police Chief Greg Testa told the Denver Post.
During the Q&A on Reddit, the Denver Post reports Beckner admitted to the initial botching of the crime scene by his department to the lasting detriment of the case.
“It was the Christmas holiday and we were short staffed. We faced a situation as I said earlier that no one in the country had ever seen before or since, and there was confusion at the scene as people were arriving before we had enough personnel on the scene. I wish we would have done a much better job of securing and controlling the crime scene on day one. We also should have separated John and Patsy and gotten full statements from them that day. Letting them go was a big mistake, as they soon lawyered up and we did not get to formally interview them again until May of 1997, five months after their daughter was murdered,” Beckner said on Reddit, according to the Denver Post.
Beckner said on Reddit he is considering writing an autobiography that would include the Ramsey case.
Perhaps the most telling of all, Beckner said on Reddit he does not believe anyone will ever be convicted in the JonBenet Ramsey case.
Though Beckner may regret the AMA, Reddit users were impressed with his candor, and we still learned some really interesting things from his answers:
1. What happened physically to JonBenet
Beckner: “We know from the evidence she was hit in the head very hard with an unknown object, possibly a flashlight or similar type item. The blow knocked her into unconsciousness, which could have led someone to believe she was dead. The strangulation came 45 minutes to two hours after the head strike, based on the swelling on the brain. While the head wound would have eventually killed her, the strangulation actually did kill her. The rest of the scene we believe was staged, including the vaginal trauma, to make it look like a kidnapping/assault gone bad.”
2. His personal theories on who did it
Beckner: “I have avoided saying who I believe is responsible and let the facts speak for themselves. There are several viable theories.”
3. Patsy Ramsey’s infamous handwriting test
Context: The day JonBenet was found dead, her mother Patsy claimed she found a 2.5-page handwritten ransom note in their home, demanding $118,000 for JonBenet’s return. The police later determined the note was written on paper from a notebook in the Ramseys’ house. The Ramseys underwent handwriting analysis to determine whether they could have written the note. John Ramsey’s sample seemed to show he didn’t write it, but Patsy Ramsey’s sample was labeled “inconclusive” and police at the time said they would pursue “unrehearsed” samples to examine. However, in the letter to John Ramsey, District Attorney Mary Lacy mentioned that she did not consider anyone in Ramsey’s immediate family to be under any suspicion in the commission of the crime.
Q: “When Patsy wrote out the sample ransom note for handwriting comparison, it is interesting that she wrote “$118,000″ out fully in words (as if trying to be different from the note). Who writes out long numbers in words? Does this seem contrived to you?”
Beckner: “The handwriting experts noted several strange observations.”
4. The uniqueness of the 2.5-page ransom note
Beckner: “The FBI told us they’d never seen a 2.5 page ransom note.”
“No note has ever been written at the scene, and then left at the scene with the dead victim at the scene, other than this case.”
5. Whether the crime scene was mishandled
Context: The investigation was plagued with claims the crime scene at the Ramseys’ house was not preserved properly, and that unauthorized individuals were allowed to move about the crime scene while the investigation was in progress.
Beckner: “Yes, the crime scene was not handled properly and this later affected the investigation. [The Ramseys’] position in the community may have had something to do with decisions made that day, but I think the primary reason was a perfect storm-type scenario. It was the Christmas holiday and we were short staffed, we faced a situation as I said earlier that no one in the country had ever seen before or since, and there was confusion at the scene… As a result, some evidence was compromised.”
“Yes, after that initial day, we felt pressure from the DA’s office not to push too hard on the Ramseys. This was a constant source of frustration and much could be written about this and the reasons for it.”
6. Whether the motive for the killing/assault was purely sexual
Context: A 1999 grand jury report indicated there was reason to believe JonBenet was “sexually assaulted.” Details from an autopsy and comments from some experts, including one cited in a 1997 Vanity Fair article indicated the girl had abnormal genital injuries or conditions that could suggest sexual contact of some sort prior to the day of her death.
Beckner: “It just didn’t seem to fit the totality of the circumstances. Remember, she was hit on the head first, hard enough to render her unconscious. Then there was the staging of a kidnapping. Why do that if the motive is purely sexual?”
7. What he thought about the John Mark Karr confession
Context: John Mark Karr was a father and teacher residing in Thailand who, in 2006, claimed he was sexually involved with JonBenet at the time of her death and that her killing was accidental. However, DNA tests confirmed he was not a match to DNA found in the girl’s underwear, and there was no reason to believe he was anywhere near the scene.
Beckner: “My gut reaction was that [District Attorney] Mary Lacy did not know the facts of the case and was making a big mistake. His confession, once they shared it with us, did not match the evidence at the scene. After she asked for our help in proving he did it, we knew in about 18 hours he was not the guy. We were able to confirm he was not even in Colorado at the time by just doing some routine checking and then obtained photos of him in Georgia at the time. The DNA test, which she thought would prove he did it, proved her wrong.”
8. How the case affected his career
Beckner: “For me, it actually helped propel me to the chief’s position once Tom Koby left. It also gave me some credibility in the community based on a different approach I took with the media. I was more open and forthcoming with the media and I think that helped.”
9. Why people are so fascinated with this case
Beckner: “The media attention and the intrigue of a good murder mystery attracts lots of people. Add a small beauty queen and it only intensifies the interest. If only 1% of the population is crazy, in our country alone that would mean there are about 3,600,000 crazy people out there wanting to give us their wacky ideas.”
JonBenet Ramsey was murdered in her home in Boulder in 1996. The six-year-old’s body was found about eight hours after she was reported missing, in the basement of the family home, during a police search of the home. She had been struck on the head and strangled. The case remains unsolved, even after several grand jury hearings, and continues to generate public and media interest.
Colorado law enforcement agencies initially suspected Ramsey’s parents and her older brother Burke. However, the family was partially exonerated in 2003 when DNA taken from the victim’s clothes suggested they were not involved. Her parents were not completely cleared until July 2008.In February 2009, the Boulder Police Department took the case back from the district attorney to reopen the investigation.
Media coverage of the case has often focused on Ramsey’s participation in child beauty pageants, her parents’ affluence and the unusual evidence in the case. Reports have also questioned the police’s overall handling of the case. Several defamation suits have been filed against several media organizations by Ramsey family members and their friends over reporting of the murder.
On October 25, 2013, previously sealed court documents were released, showing that a Colorado grand jury had voted in 1999 to indict John and Patricia Ramsey with the murder of six-year-old JonBenét Ramsey on charges of child abuse resulting in death and being accessories to a crime. However, then-District Attorney Alex Hunter decided not to sign the indictment, saying the evidence was insufficient.
CLICK HERE to read excerpts from the Reddit Q&A and for a link to the full Mark Beckner Reddit Q&A.