Perhaps the most compelling murder case of our day, the death of six-year-old JonBenet Ramsey galvanized the nation-and years after it occurred, the mystery still endures. Who killed the young beauty queen and why? Who is covering up for whom and who is simply lying? In JonBenet, the most authoritative and comprehensive study of the Ramsey murder, a former lead Boulder Police detective, Steve Thomas, explores the case in vivid and fascinating detail-pointing the way toward an analysis of the evidence some deem too shocking to consider.
I really wanted to like this book. I didn’t even know this book existed until someone on Twitter recommended this book as an objective look at the case from an insider’s point of view. How wrong she was. So very wrong.
This book is written by an investigator assigned to the case. Awesome. Until it wasn’t so awesome. Steve Thomas clearly hates the police force he worked for. I don’t blame him. The way he tells it and further compounded by the media coverage, the Boulder Police Department was back then a department full of spineless and narrow-minded idiots, author included. And yes, I meant to be that harsh.
The book is hard to read and even harder to review because it’s all about the case. Personally, I don’t know how to read a book about a murder investigation without commenting on the contents of the book.
As the book points out, this investigation was a cluster fuck from the moment Patsy called 911. It’s obvious that the author was drinking the same “the mother did it” flavored Kool-Aid as everyone one else on the force. In the beginning and numerous times throughout the book, he admitted that Boulder Police Department was ill equipped to handle a murder investigation of any sorts. They didn’t even have a homicide unit! Steve Thomas, an undercover narcotics detective, was eager to jump on a murder case. Murder and narcotics…hmmm, not the same at all. They aren’t even investigated the same way. If the general public knows this, why didn’t the police department?
Knowing that Boulder Police Department could not handle this case, I’m baffled as to why they found it so strange that the Ramseys almost immediately hired private investigators and lawyers. Their child was murdered. If the officers in the department knew they’d probably fuck up the case, why wouldn’t the rest of the town think the same. If I was rich and my child was murdered, I damn sure wouldn’t solely depend on an incompetent police force to find the murderer. Would you?
There are so many times in this book when the author questioned why a person would hire a lawyer just to be interviewed by police. Why? Why? Why? Repeated over and over. I’m sitting here thinking “Why not?” If the incompetence of the Boulder Police Department described by the author was known by any person, I wouldn’t talk to them without my attorney present. It’s clearly obvious that they had no idea what the hell they were doing or how to conduct an interview. This author is trying so hard to be condescending, accusatory, and self-righteous but he’s only making himself appear as incompetent as the police department he spends so much time belittling.
The contradictions of his statements are annoyingly frequent. One minute he’s talking about how he wants to find the killer but then the next he so clearly points out that the Ramseys were the only people the cops were focused on. They had a list of names and somehow managed to clear all of them. I believe that when John and Patsy decided not to solely let the Boulder Police Department handle the investigation, it was considered and insult and made them public enemy number one even though the department was well aware they couldn’t handle it. They didn’t want their inexperience and incompetence in the light so in an effort to make it seem like they were doing something and to get back at John and Patsy, they only looked for evidence that pointed to them.
To further illustrate how obtuse and corrupt the District Attorney’s office was, our poor delusional author spent the first part of chapter 10 basically bullet-pointing all the cases of murder that either went untried or pleaded out with barely any jail time; he writes as if he is totally shocked how mass murderers weren’t given the death penalty. Yet, even after writing all these scathing examples of why confidence in Boulder County District Attorney to convict and punish a murderer probably would not occur, our naïve author still couldn’t understand why the Ramseys were reluctant to trust him.
His attempt to frame the District Attorney as corrupt and in coercion with the Ramseys actually backfires. He wants the reader to believe that had there been murder charges brought against John, Patsy, or both, prosecution was an uncertainty. In my opinion, his recitation of the faults of District Attorney’s office only reinforced the notion that John and Patsy did the right thing by looking elsewhere for assistance in solving the murder of their child because Boulder County law enforcement sure as hell couldn’t and/or wouldn’t.
Another theme that I have to touch on is how much the author whines about people being uncooperative. It’s almost as if he’s never investigated ANYTHING before let alone a child murder. Having cops camped out at an elementary school is in fact disruptive. Setting up shop in someone’s place of business, especially a business that deals with consumers’ personal information, could definitely be a liability. Asking to conduct their interviews elsewhere isn’t not cooperating. It’s SOP – standard operating procedure
As I got further into the book, I started to hate the District Attorney’s office even more than the police department. In fact, I found myself feeling a bit empathetic for the police department. It is clear that they truly wanted to do their jobs, despite the refusal to look into any other theory except “the parents did it.” The few detectives assigned to the case genuinely wanted justice for JonBenet. While I wish they were more open minded, especially about the stun gun markings, I understood their desire. The author even mentioned that investigating parents of a murdered child is pretty much the last thing a cop wants to do but it HAS to be done.
Full disclosure here…I was only 16 when JonBenet was killed. I didn’t follow the case and wasn’t as into true crime stories as I am today. I didn’t come into this stuck only on one opinion so to see how the evidence unfolded and how some of it does point right at Patsy, I can understand why they’d be suspects. However, if I can be open minded to other theories and possible suspects, it is really hard to read about an entire police force and District Attorney’s office that each only had one opinion and stuck to it like glue.
As for the District Attorney’s office…everyone in that office who had a hand in the investigation should be in jail for obstruction of justice. They wrecked this case so bad and on purpose, that it’s hard to fathom that one of them didn’t do it. In fact, they worked extremely hard to derail this case and make sure that not only did the Ramseys not stand trial for the murder of JonBenet, no one else would either. I can’t understand why the conspiracy theorists haven’t decided that Alex Hunter, the District Attorney at the time, committed the crime himself.
On the flip side, the Ramseys, innocent or not, did absolutely nothing to help their case. In fact, time after time, according to the author, they lied and hid behind lawyers and certainly did not act like the parents of a murdered child who wanted the killer to be caught.
To this day, I agree with the author. The Ramseys were strange acting from the beginning. Reading about their actions from the investigator’s POV only made them stranger. Their constant “complaining” to the media that the cops were making it seem like they were the only suspects made it worse.
Listen up…my gramma used to say to me and my cousins whenever she accused us of doing something that we didn’t do or weren’t involved in,
“If you don’t want me to be suspicious, don’t do suspicious shit.”
John and Patsy could have used that advice.
I’m glad I didn’t form a solid opinion on the Ramsey vs. Intruder theories before I read this because, as much as this book irritated the hell out of me, I think Steve’s theory of what happened is the most logical and fits the evidence.
Would I recommend this book to others interested in this case and true crime…yes. But I damn sure wouldn’t describe it as “objective.”
Side note: Although Steve’s theory of how Patsy did it fits all the evidence, I have a sneaking suspicion that Burke accidentally killed his little sister and Patsy covered it up. I do not believe that John had anything to do with it. And that’s just what I deduced from the evidence presented in this book.