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Authors: Lawrence Schiller

Perfect Murder, Perfect Town

BOOK: Perfect Murder, Perfect Town
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PERFECT MURDER PERFECT TOWN
Lawrence Schiller

PERFECT MURDER PERFECT TOWN
Lawrence Schiller

To KATHY, MY FRIEND AND WIFE,
for the four loving years
we’ve shared together

AN APPRECIATION

To Charlie Brennan, my skillful
colleague in interview and research,
for the year we labored side by side in
Boulder, feeling as devoted as family

 

“Evils that befall the world are not nearly so often
caused by bad men as they are by good men who are
silent when an opinion must be voiced.”

This work attempts to take the story of the murder investigation of JonBenét Ramsey out of the context of the newspaper reports and sound bites that have formed the nation’s opinion of the case and place it into a more complete context.

This book is based on the memories of those interviewed, my own observations, reports, transcripts, and other documents I obtained during my research.

The passages that appear in the first person have been edited. Words, phrases, and even segments of the interviews on which the passages are based were removed and sentences rearranged to present the material in continuity. It was not done to make accounts more meaningful or to improve on what interview subjects said but to avoid duplication and confusing references and to make the transition from speech to print more fluent.

Lawrence Schiller
January 1999

Dear Friends and Family,

It’s been another busy year at the Ramsey household. Can’t believe it’s almost over and time to start again!

Melinda has graduated from the Medical College of Georgia and is working in Pediatrics ICU at Kennestone Hospital in Atlanta. John Andrew (2
nd
) is a Sophomore at the University of Colorado.

Burke is a busy fourth grader where he really shines in math and spelling. He played flag football this fall and is currently on a basketball binge! His little league team was #1. He’s lost just about all of his baby teeth, so I’m sure we’ll be seeing the orthodontist in 1997!

JonBenét is enjoying her first year in “real school.” Kindergarten in the Core Knowledge program is fast paced and five full days a week. She has already been moved ahead to first grade math. She continues to enjoy participating in talent and modeling pageants. She was named “America’s Royale Tiny Miss” last summer and is Colorado’s Little Miss Christmas. Her teacher says she is so outgoing that she will never have trouble delivering an oral book report!

John is always on the go traveling hither and yon. Access recently celebrated its one-billion $$ mark in sales, so he’s pretty happy! He and his crew were underway in the Port Huron to Mackinac Island yacht race in July, but had to pull out midway due to lack of wind. (Can you believe that?) But, his real love is the new “old looking” boat, Grand Season, which he spent months designing.

I spend most of my “free time” working in the school and doing volunteer work. The Charlevoix house was on the home tour in July and will likely appear in one of
the Better Homes and Garden publications in 1997. On a recent trip to NYC, my friend and I appeared amid the throng of fans on the TODAY show. Al Roker and Bryant actually talked to us and we were on camera for a few fleeting moments!

We are all enjoying continued good health and look forward to seeing you in 1997! One final note…thank you to all my “friends” and my dear husband for surprising me with the biggest, most outrageous 40
th
birthday bash I’ve ever had! We’ll be spending my actual birthday on the Disney Big Red Boat over the new year!

Merry Christmas and much love,

The Ramseys

ACCESS CELEBRATES $1 BILLION MARK

A billion bucks. That’s enough to make anybody celebrate.

So when Boulder-based computer distributor Access Graphics Inc. passed the $1 billion mark in 1996 revenues, it tossed a luncheon party at the Hotel Boulderado on Friday.

John Ramsey, president of Access Graphics, thanked about 300 employees at the gathering and told them it couldn’t have happened without them.

Reaching the billion-dollar mark has come relatively quickly for Access, which was formed in 1989 from the merger of three companies: CAD Distributors Inc. of Boulder; CAD Sources Inc. of Piscataway, N.J.; and Advanced Products Group of Roswell, Ga.

—Tom Locke, business writer
Daily Camera,
December 21, 1996

PART ONE
A Death in Paradise
 

“Do roses know their thorns can hurt?” JonBenét asked me that one morning. I was the landscaper at the Ramseys’ home during the last two years of her life, and it was the kind of question I’d learned to expect from her.

I remember how intelligent JonBenét was. That’s why I never talked to her as if she were just a little kid. I spoke to her pretty much as I would to an adult, the way I’m talking to you now. We would discuss evolution, the natural mutations that occur in plants, animals, even people.

So when she asked me about thorns, I told her, “They’re a rose’s shield. They allow roses to survive. They keep away animals who might eat them.”

She would follow me all over the yard, finding something to do wherever I was working. I was happy to talk with her, and would answer her questions about anything and everything. All the topics you’d call natural science seemed to interest her.

“What is a year?”

“That’s the length of time it takes for the earth to make one trip all around the sun.”

“So I’ve been around the sun five times?”

“Right. And you’ve almost finished your sixth trip.”

I added that I’d completed the journey twenty-seven times. That stopped her. So
many
trips, she exclaimed. Then she became lost in thought.

That same week in September, the needles were falling off the pine tree and the sap had started to drip. “Why does a tree do that?” she asked. I wasn’t certain I
knew exactly, but I tried to explain—scientifically. “The sun helps pull the sap up from the trunk to the leaves.” Then I compared the sap to human blood, said the sap carries nourishment to the whole tree. Anyone could see she was excited to learn about these things.

The neighborhood kids would come by from time to time. JonBenét seemed to socialize with them just fine. Her brother, Burke, was three years older. He almost never said a word to me. Just played by himself in the backyard, completely occupied with his own projects. Next to the sandbox and swing, in the pea gravel area, he dug a system of canals. Then he put a hose on top of the slide. The water poured down and spread perfectly throughout the elaborate waterway.

“Someday you’re going to be an engineer?” I asked him. “No,” he said. Just a single word—no.

He always seemed to play alone.

Just then Patsy called from inside, “It’s time to start your homework.” I remember thinking, There’s a mother who really cares about her children.

“Burke, come in and start your homework.”

“OK, just a minute, Mom.” It was like an old-fashioned TV show—
Leave It to Beaver
or
Father Knows Best.

While I kept the gardens well-defined and tidy, as pristine as a golf course, JonBenét had her own projects. She would attach an exercise device to her ankle, and then, as it rotated several inches off the ground parallel to it, she would hop with the other leg over the cord as it swung by. She’d keep this up for long periods on the back patio. And she was very good at it. It was kind of a cool thing—demanded good reflexes and coordination. I even thought of getting one for myself.

I figured her legwork was for the pageants. I could
see the muscles becoming defined in her calves. I’d made a similar assumption when I saw her practicing the violin. I knew the competitions took a lot of preparation, but I never once saw her in makeup or costumes, never spotted her wearing anything but jumpers or jeans, or shorts and T-shirts.

I’d heard she was Little Miss Colorado, and I asked her if she was excited about winning the title.

“I really don’t care about it,” she said. It didn’t seem to be a very big deal to her, or if it was, she certainly didn’t let on. She seemed more interested in trips around the sun or the lifeblood of trees.

In early December of ’96, I was raking the blanket of leaves under a maple, getting the property ready for winter.

“Don’t pick the leaves up, please,” JonBenét begged me. “Leave them for me to play with.”

Well, I’m thinking, no way. My job is to pick them up, and that’s what I’m going to do.

“Last year my dad and I did that.”

And then she said quietly; “I really miss him. I wish he was around more.”

“Where does he go?”

“I don’t know. But sometimes he goes away for a long time.”

“You really miss him?” I asked.

“Yeah, I really miss him a lot.”

Then she started to cry, tears rolling down her cheeks.

I didn’t know what to say—didn’t know enough about the situation, didn’t want to intrude or play counselor. It wasn’t my place. I changed the subject and started to rake up the leaves.

A moment later, I saw JonBenét was scooping up the leaves from the top of the barrel and hurling them
over her head into the wind. “Hey! Stop that!” I yelled.

“No, I want to play in ’em.” She was being kind of bratty. She had a bit of smart aleck in her.

I grabbed the barrel and started running toward the compost pile. She chased after me, not about to give up her fun. I set the barrel down, and she dumped all the leaves out. That made me angry—almost. But before long I made a game out of it—it was fun for both of us.

That evening I left a big pile of leaves out front by the gutter for her to play with.

That was probably the last time I spoke to JonBenét. Six weeks later I took the morning paper from my front steps and saw it. I don’t even remember now what the headlines said.

I wanted to go over to the Ramseys’. Later that day, I did drive by. It was crazy—media, police, yellow tape going all around the house. Just totally crazy. I didn’t even try to go in. I kept driving.

—Brian Scott

BOOK: Perfect Murder, Perfect Town
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